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What is Phishing?

The FDIC has created the following to inform and warn consumers about a type of fraud called phishing. The term "phishing" – as in fishing for confidential information - refers to a scam that encompasses fraudulently obtaining and using an individual's personal or financial information. Here is how it works:

  • A consumer receives an email which appears to originate from a financial institution, government agency, or other reputable entity.
  • The message describes an urgent reason you must verify or resubmit personal or confidential information by clicking on a link embedded in the message.
  • The provided link appears to be the website of the financial institution, government agency, or other reputable entity, but in "phishing" scams, the website belongs to the fraudster.
  • Once inside the fraudulent website, the consumer may be asked to provide Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords, or other information used to identify the consumer, such as the maiden name of the consumer's mother or the consumer's place of birth.
  • When the consumer provides the information, those perpetrating the fraud can begin to access consumer accounts or assume the person's identity. 

Since January 23, 2004, criminals have been using the FDIC's name and reputation to perpetrate various phishing schemes. It is important to note that the FDIC will never ask for personal or confidential information in this manner. See the FDIC Privacy Policy for further information.

If you suspect an e-mail or website is fraudulent, please report this information to the real bank, company, or government agency, using a phone number or email address from a reliable source. Example: If your bank's webpage looks different or unusual, contact the institution directly to confirm that you haven't landed on a copycat website set up by criminals. Also, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center, (www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

If you suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, perhaps because you submitted personal information in response to a suspicious, unsolicited email or you see unauthorized charges on your credit card, immediately contact your financial institution and, if necessary, close existing accounts and open new ones. Also contact the police and request a copy of any police report or case number for later reference. In addition, call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289) to request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report.