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How to recognize a scam (02/09/2006)
Phishing is the focus of the Minnesota Bankers Association's (MBA) 2006 consumer protection awareness campaign. The MBA has joined a group of organizations to promote the eighth annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), February 5-11, 2006. NCPW empowers consumers by highlighting current consumer protection and education efforts in the fight against fraud.

According to a survey by the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 25 million Americans - 11.2 percent of the adult population - experience consumer fraud each year. This year the MBA is distributing a list of tips to help people avoid phishing scams. Phishing scams involve a criminal sending an email claiming to be from a business or organization with which consumers are familiar. The message may ask to "update," "validate," or "confirm" the consumer's account information. These emails trick consumers into divulging personal information so the operators can steal identities. Consumer protection tips for a number of fraudulent activities can be found at www.consumer.gov/ncpw.

"Criminals design fraud scams around a wide range of common, everyday occurrences, so it pays to know how to spot a scam," said Joe Witt, President/CEO of the MBA. "Sometimes when a deal seems too good to be true, it is."

"Minnesota banks are proud to participate in this year's National Consumer Protection Week campaign," said Greg Burger, MBA Chair and President/CEO of Minnwest Bank Luverne. "We strive to give consumers the tools they need to recognize and avoid fraud and deception in the marketplace."

The Minnesota Bankers Association is the state's largest trade association devoted exclusively to the representation of commercial banks. The MBA was founded in 1889 and represents nearly 460 banks with more than 1,500 locations in Minnesota.

The FTC suggests these tips to help avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

" If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email.

" Use anti-virus software and a firewall, and keep them up to date. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.

" Don't email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information.

" Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

" Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer's security.

" Forward spam that is phishing for information to spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank or organization impersonated in the phishing email.

" If you believe you've been scammed, file your complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft. 


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