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E-mail scam hits bank customers

Scammers forged bank's identity and sent emails in massive scale (i.e. spamming). This is called 'branded fake'. Quite often, the e-mail addresses were randomly generated and it then by chance ‘hit’ the bank's customer. UK customers of MBNA had that experience in February 2004 which was widely reported in the news.

The faked emails came with a variety of subject lines such as "MBNA's OfficiaI Notice," "Attention all MBNA users" and "0fficial Notice for all users of MBNA." The message falsely claimed that the “bank” is putting in a new security system to "help you avoid frequently fraud transactions and to keep your investments in safety".

Customer logging in the fake page will have their personal bank information or identity stolen and relayed directly to the crooks who adopted spamming as a cheating tool.

Very often, the link on the email will lead the customer to a site bearing a ‘look and feel’ (colour, lay-out and even fonts) highly similar to the true site but in any event, the site will have a professional look in order not to arouse the customer's suspicion.

To avoid such kind of fraud, customers are advised to note the following:

1. Ensure that the emails truly come from the bank.

2. Don’t click on any links provided in the emails without thoughts

3. Before deciding to take any actions including clicking on the link, visit the true site first

4. If customer has doubts or is not sure, telephone the bank's customer hotline and enquire. Make sure that the telephone number is the number of the true bank.

5. Compare the domain name of the site if you have accidentally clicked on the link with the true site.

6. Report to the bank if you suspect there is a fraud or attempted fraud or you have been cheated.

7. Informing the bank IMMEDIATELY on being cheated is VERY IMPORTANT. This will enable the bank to take immediate step to ban the crook on dealing with your bank account.

In the past few years, many banks in UK and US as well as in Hong Kong had been bit by phishing scams. In Hong Kong, fraudsters were found to attempt to cheat banks’ customers by releasing fake web-site using domain names highly similar to the true banks. To give a few examples, they are: HSBC, DBS and Bank of East Asia.

In December 2003, NatWest of UK temporarily suspended its internet banking facility after some of its customers were sent fraudulent e-mails asking them to divulge their account details.

In October 2003, Nationwide and NatWest in UK were targeted by a similar hoax as was the Halifax, while in September fraudsters tried to trick customers of Lloyds TSB and Barclays.

On 7 December 2001 in UK, a five-strong Net fraud gang has been sentenced to a total of just under eight and half years for a conspiring to defraud online banks.

The four men and one woman made bogus multiple credit card applications with Egg, Cahoot, Smile, Marbles, MBNA, and SonyCard.

The gang, hailing from Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, were arrested by officers from the National Crime Squad in August 2000 after a six month operation.