MADISON, Wis. (2/6/09)--When members and other consumers face an economy in turmoil, they also face another beast: cybercriminals, who step up their financial scams to prey on people worried about their accounts, their houses, their jobs, and the future. For example, after Wachovia failed, e-mails began phishing Wachovia's current and former customers, asking them to install "new" Internet security certification and to provide crucial financial information to "activate" the installation. Also, the number of malicious software programs on the Internet tripled to more than 31,000 a day in mid-September, about the time the nation's financial sector began collapsing, say security analysts, who add the boom in cyberthreats could accelerate in an economy with an extended slump (USA Today
Feb. 2). They predict a rise in phishing, vishing and smishing attempts and other con games to gather information from consumers considering switching financial institutions, pulling investments and retirement accounts, or wanting to know if their deposits are safe. All types of con games increased, according to government regulators, law enforcement officials and security firms. Last fall Trojan viruses began circulating more widely in e-mail and instant-message spam. These became embedded in thousands of websites and spread in a barrage of online ads. By clicking on the wrong thing, consumers downloaded the Trojan to steal information. And the trend in data breaches is more organized. several security experts have told various publications. Organized groups of cybercriminals are finding where huge masses of data are located and have begun hitting data processors, according to a survey of law enforcement officials and security experts reported by the newspaper. Credit unions already are dealing with these issues, and many use the data thefts as an opportunity to educate members that legitimate financial institutions don't ask for such information. But their members may be targets of wider schemes--for bogus computer virus protection, get-rich schemes and videos and ads that contain hidden software that can dump a malicious code into a computer--that can affect their accounts. Here are the latest scams hitting credit unions and their members: \
* A cell phone text message scam from "Piramid CU" spoofs the legitimate credit union, Pyramid CU, Tucson, Ariz. A similar text message poses as Vantage West CU, also of Tucson. The scam number has been traced to Michigan and an e-mail address traced to Germany. (Tucson Citizen Feb. 5). * First Choice FCU, New Castle, Pa. reported members and non-members received fraudulent messages via phone calls and text messaging. The messages indicate a third party has accessed the individual's debit or credit card account and ask the caller to contact the security department. Members have been hanging up and not providing the information (Life is a Highway Feb. 3). * Altoona Regional Health System FCU, Altoona, Pa., said its members received text messages on a cell phone indicating their credit union account was locked. They were told to call a phone number and provide information to access the account (Altoona Mirror.com Feb. 5). * Thousands of people in the Indianapolis area received fake bank alerts--including one supposedly from Indianapolis-based Forum CU--on their pagers and cell phones. Even the police received the messages. Several people reported fraudulent charges from their account (WTHR-TV via MSNBC.com Feb. 4).