Attorney general warns of utility-bill phishing scam

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has a issued a warning regarding a national email “phishing” scam that has recently been reported in Washington state.

Senders of the scam email apparently disguise it as a utility bill. The phishing tactic is a common form of Internet fraud that attempts to access and steal personal information, including credit cards, Social Security numbers, user IDs or passwords.

Washington state residents have reported receiving emails that look like statements from a utility company, claiming that their bills are “due upon receipt” or “past due.” The email also provides a link allowing recipients to “view” their supposed most recent bill.

However, clicking the link will instead prompt the download of computer malware, which can disrupt computer operation and gather sensitive information about a computer owner without their knowledge or permission.

According to the Attorney General’s consumer experts, these fraudulent messages are just another variation of common phishing scams—emails that look like they originate from a legitimate company, but are actually designed to obtain personal information or direct you to a website that downloads malware.

While these scams come in many forms, the best line of defense is to simply delete them and do not click any links or open any attachments.

The Attorney General’s Office also offers these tips:

– Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you.
– Hover over the reply address or links in the message (without clicking) to see if it includes your utility providers’ company and domain name.
– If you are concerned about the notice or the status of your account, contact your utility company directly for assistance, using a number you know to be legitimate.

More information can be found on the Attorney General’s website at www.atg.wa.gov/InternetSafety.aspx.

National Consumer Protection Week, March 2-8

The Attorney General’s office is also teaming up with the Better Business Bureau to promote National Consumer Protection Week, from March 2-8.

Both agencies will be posting daily tips throughout the week on their websites and social-media pages. Their combined goal is to address growing problems surrounding technology, identity theft, health and safety as well as other consumer-related issues.

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