‘Phishing’ e-mail scams still targeting residents

Anybody with an e-mail address may have received unusual messages from unfamiliar sources featuring suspicious subject lines and recognized their contents as scams. Now, perpetrators are adding some local flair to give those schemes more believability.

“Phishing” is the fraudulent practice of obtaining private data such as credit card data, social security numbers, online usernames and passwords and other confidential information by impersonating a trustworthy source in electronic communications.

Recent e-mails purporting to be from the Garden Island Federal Credit Union and the Kaua‘i Community Federal Credit Union directed recipients to complete an online survey with the promise of monetary rewards of $80 and $90, respectively.

Similar scams, nicknamed “vishing,” have been perpetrated via cell phone text messaging functions.

KCFCU Chief Executive Officer Mel Chiba said that some of the group’s members have also received phone calls asking for private information.

“Nowadays, it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when,” an institution will be attacked by phishers, GIFCU Operations Supervisor Flo Tazaki said yesterday. “They’re utilizing any organization they can to try to get this information.”

The phony KCFCU survey, obtained by The Garden Island, poses seemingly innocuous questions about customer satisfaction before asking users to provide personal information such as full name, telephone number, ATM PIN code and credit card number and expiration date, purportedly required to collect the promised reward.

The official Web sites for the GIFCU, KCFCU and National Credit Union Administration outlined the threat posed by e-mail fraud, alerting members to the scams’ presence and explaining what can be done to avoid identity theft.

“Educating members to not respond is the only way we can fight it at this point,” Chiba said yesterday.

Tazaki said that a newsletter to be distributed to GIFCU members would instruct those who receive the e-mails to in turn send them to antiphishing.org, an association focused on eliminating this type of fraud and identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission explains unsolicited commercial e-mails, known as “spam,” and offers tips on how to avoid e-mail scams at its Web site, ftc.gov/spam

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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