One week after bank failures exceeded the century mark for this year, scammers are now trying to capitalize on consumers' concerns by sending out fraudulent e-mails urging depositors to check their insurance coverage.
These e-mails, which claim to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), alert recipients that their bank has collapsed and been taken over by the agency. "Check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage" blares the subject line of the e-mails.
"You have received this message because you are a holder of a FDIC-insured bank account," the e-mails say. "Recently FDIC has officially named the bank you have opened your account with as a failed bank, thus taking control of its assets."
The e-mails then urge the recipients to click on a link purportedly belonging to "the official FDIC Web site", where they can download and open a "personal FDIC insurance file" to check their deposit insurance coverage.
The "insurance file," the FDIC believes, may actually be a type of spyware -- malicious computer code used to collect personal or confidential information.
In a special alert issued by the FDIC Tuesday, the agency warned recipients about the fraudulent e-mails. The agency said they are now working with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team to try to figure out the effects of the "insurance file." The agency is also trying to determine the source of the e-mails and halt their transmission.
In the meantime, the agency said, "Recipients should consider the intent of the software as a malicious attempt to collect personal or confidential information, some of which may be used to gain unauthorized access to online banking services or to conduct identity theft. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT access the Web site or download the executable files provided on the web site."
Just last Friday, the number of banks that have collapsed so far this year soared past the century mark. In all, the FDIC closed seven banks last Friday, bringing the total number of bank failures this year to 106.
To ease the concerns of consumers after the rash of bank failures, FDIC chief Sheila Bair released a video Friday reassuring depositors that their insured money is in no danger.
"I want to take this opportunity to reassure consumers that their insured deposits are absolutely safe," she said in the video.
"Throughout the FDIC's 75-year history, no insured depositor has ever lost a penny of insured deposits and none ever will," she said.
"Depositors should understand that the chances of their bank failing are low," she said, "and even if their bank does fail, depositors have nothing to worry about."