DOJ: News Release

After Receiving Scam E-mail in Recent Local Rash, Attorney General Warns Consumers to Protect Personal Information

Bullock: In uncertain economic times it’s important to beware of “phishing” scams, other cons

HELENA – A recent rash of scam e-mails and text messages has hit close to home, Attorney General Steve Bullock said on Tuesday.

Like many Montanans, Bullock recently received an e-mail telling him that unless he sent account information to the sender “access to sensitive account features will be limited.” While the e-mail appeared to be coming from Montana-based Mountain West Bank, it’s part of a “phishing” scam that tries to get personal information from unsuspecting consumers.

The e-mail messages also directed recipients to visit a website that looked nearly identical to Mountain West’s homepage. The use of mock websites, even those of local companies and lending institutions, has become common practice in these “phishing” scams.

Bullock stressed that while the recent rash involves Mountain West, the con artists sending these out are continually changing who they e-mail and the companies, agencies and charities they impersonate.

“In these uncertain economic times, it’s more important than ever to protect personal information from those who try to steal our identities or run up bills in our names,” Bullock said. “Legitimate businesses don’t ask for this sensitive information over e-mail or through text messages. Folks receiving these messages should be suspicious and should contact their financial institution.”

These e-mail or text messaging scams, known as “phishing,” try to lure personal information—like credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords or other sensitive information—from unsuspecting victims.

Often these messages appear to come from legitimate companies and agencies with whom consumers regularly conduct business and contain links to websites that look remarkably like a legitimate organization’s site. The messages also may threaten a consequence like closing an account or terminating service unless consumers immediately update their billing information.

Bullock warned that consumers should always be cautious of any unsolicited communication requesting personal information, as those who try to steal personal, sensitive information are always adapting their tricks.

  • Do not reply to an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal information and don’t click on the link in the message. Legitimate businesses don’t ask for these types of information via e-mail. Contact the company directly using a telephone number or a website address you know to be legitimate.
  • Be suspicious of warnings that accounts will be shut down with little or no notice if you don’t reconfirm your billing information. Don’t be pressured into responding before you can contact the legitimate organization.
  • Look at the “address bar” at the top of the browser, not just the graphics and logos on the web page. Fake sites often use a different domain name from the legitimate business site they are copying.
  • Avoid sending personal and financial information via e-mail whenever possible.

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