Casey Calls on FTC to Issue Alert on Email 'Phishing' Scams to Protect Consumers Over Holidays

Phishing Scammers Fool Consumers into Giving Over Personal Information / Scams Have Cost Consumers Over $250M in This Half of Year Alone; Seniors Especially Vulnerable / Alert Could Help Prevent PA Shoppers from Being Scammed During Holidays

Casey Calls on FTC to Issue Alert on Email 'Phishing' Scams to Protect Consumers Over Holidays

Washington, DC- After a week in which millions of consumers saw their personal financial information compromised, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an alert that will warn consumers to ever rising email phishing scams. An alert will educate the public on these scams which have already cost consumers over $250 million in the first half of this year and have hit seniors especially hard.

“These scams have the potential to do serious damage to our economy and the personal financial security of millions of Americans,” Senator Casey said. “In the last weeks we’ve seen firsthand the damage that hackers and identity thieves can do. I’m urging the FTC to issue a consumer alert to educate the public, especially vulnerable seniors, about these scams so they are protected during the holidays.”

Across the country, phishing attacks cost Americans $254 million in the first half of this year alone, according to EMC, a global IT firm. Phishing scammers are particularly active during the winter holiday season. At a time when many Americans are shopping online, donating to their favorite charities and booking travel arrangements, would-be identity thieves see increased opportunities to conduct phishing attacks. During this holiday period, thousands of Americans will receive false shipping notifications, electronic holiday cards and online shopping advertisements designed to steal their financial information. With online shopping reaching $82 billion this holiday season alone, the risks of phishing scams are higher than ever.

Three quarters of phishing attacks target bank and non-bank financial companies. Government agencies have also helped raise awareness of the threat. However, most phishing alerts are released after the scam has already targeted victims. As a result, many firms and consumers remain vulnerable to this type of fraud. Older Americans who already face complicated financial decisions are particularly at risk.

To sign up for phishing alerts, visit: www.consumer.ftc.gov.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:

The Honorable Edith Ramirez
Chairwoman
Federal Trade Commission

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:

I write to express my concerns about scams that target consumers’ financial information during the holidays, specifically phishing. As you know, phishing scams use emails that falsely represent legitimate enterprises in an attempt to steal personal information from consumers. Every year, hundreds of phishing campaigns target consumers in my home state of Pennsylvania. Across the country, phishing attacks cost Americans $254 million in the first half of this year alone, according to EMC Corporation, a global IT firm.

Phishing scammers are particularly active during the winter holiday season. At a time when many Americans are shopping online, donating to their favorite charities and booking travel arrangements, would-be identity thieves see increased opportunities to conduct phishing attacks. During this holiday period, thousands of Americans will receive false shipping notifications, electronic holiday cards and online shopping advertisements designed to steal their financial information. With online shopping reaching $82 billion this holiday season alone, the risks of phishing scams are higher than ever.

Three quarters of phishing attacks target bank and non-bank financial companies. Government agencies have also helped raise awareness of the threat. However, most phishing alerts are released after the scam has already targeted victims. As a result, many firms and consumers remain vulnerable to this type of fraud. Older Americans who already face complicated financial decisions are particularly at risk.

As the leading federal agency with oversight over consumer protection, the FTC has taken valuable steps to inform consumers about online scams and is well placed to alert consumers about the threat of holiday phishing attacks. I therefore request that FTC issue an official alert about holiday phishing schemes, informing consumers about available tools to protect themselves. I also ask that the FTC explore ways to further enhance coordination with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in tackling the threat of phishing. Given the Bureau’s leading role in financial education, better coordination will help provide consumers with timely, effective and actionable information on fraud prevention. Because older Americans are at greater risk of this type of attack, I would ask that both agencies keep in mind vulnerable groups such as seniors as you continue to help consumers manage financial risks.

Phishing scams are one of the most significant identity theft threats facing consumers. At a time when many Americans let their guard down to spend time among friends and family, it is essential that we do everything we can to prevent them from becoming victims of financial fraud.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  If you have any questions, please contact my office.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

cc: Richard Cordray, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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