North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Do not get hooked when ID thieves go phishing, warns AG Cooper

Release date: 2/8/2005

Charlotte: North Carolinians need to be on the look out for fraudulent emails from identity thieves seeking your personal information, warned Attorney General Roy Cooper today.

“Identity thieves who go phishing use the good names of legitimate banks, retailers and charities to try to steal your good name and ruin your credit,” said Cooper while speaking at the Federal Reserve Bank in Charlotte. “Don’t get caught by these crooks.”

Cooper joined the North Carolina Bankers Association today in Charlotte to caution consumers about “phishing” scams that use emails to steal consumers’ financial information. The warning comes as Cooper and consumer advocates across the country are seeking to raise awareness about identity theft during National Consumer Protection Week.

“Phishing is reaching epidemic proportions. The skill with which criminals can duplicate the look and ‘feel’ of legitimate electronic communications is amazing,” said Michael C. Miller, president and chairman of First National Bank and Trust Co. in Asheboro and current chairman of the NC Bankers Association. “Consumers must learn how to detect the frauds and protect themselves.”

Phishing emails use the name and logos of legitimate companies to make fraudulent emails look believable. Consumers who receive these emails are usually directed to websites where they are asked to supply personal information that can be used by identity thieves. To help consumers avoid falling victim to phishing emails, Cooper’s office has issued a list of tips available online at www.ncdoj.com .

North Carolina consumers have recently reported receiving phishing emails from State Employees Credit Union, Washington Mutual and Citibank. Previously reported “phishing” scams used counterfeit emails that pretended to come from companies such as AOL, Bank of America, Best Buy, eBay, Earthlink and PayPal. According to a report issued by the Anti-Phishing Working Group last year, in November 2004 alone there were 8,459 different phishing emails sent about 51 different companies. Of those emails, 75% claimed to come from legitimate financial services companies such as banks.

Phishing is just one way that identity thieves steal personal information. Two years ago in Charlotte, Cooper launched a comprehensive statewide crackdown on identity theft that has been named by the Federal Trade Commission as a national model. The campaign has resulted in stronger laws, new training for law enforcement, efforts to educate consumers, and better cooperation with banks and businesses. Cooper’s office is working on more ways to fight identity theft including legislative proposals to strengthen protections for consumers’ personal information and help law enforcement and prosecutors fight identity theft.

“Even as more of us take steps to protect our personal information, identity theft remains on the rise,” said Cooper. “Criminals will use any means to steal your identity and we’ve got to keep looking for new ways to fight them.”  

Organizers of the seventh annual National Consumer Protection Week include the FTC, AARP, the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Federation of America, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Attorneys General, among others. More tips for consumers and businesses and a list of resources on identity theft are available via the National Consumer Protection Week website at www.consumer.gov/ncpw .