The number of students and staff victimized by e-mail scams that prompted them to give out their TCF Bank account information has grown by three, bringing the total to seven. The Department of Public Safety received three reports in December about University students who lost money when people posed as bank officials and requested personal information that granted them illegal access to the students’ accounts. The other four reports surfaced in November.Altogether, five reports came from students and two from University staff members concerning the scam, which is known as phishing. Phishers send out mass e-mails or pop-up messages that claim to be from well-known financial organizations in order to steal people’s identities.The students and staff members responded to e-mails that appeared to be sent by TCF Bank officials. The victims later reported money was illegally withdrawn from their accounts. The seven recent reports prompted a mass e-mail from DPS Director Bill Bess to all University students, faculty and staff warning about the frauds. A similar e-mail was sent in November.Both e-mails reminded people that financial institutions will not request personal information over e-mail or the telephone.“When you call us, you have to provide that (information) to us,” said Buffy Adams, TCF Bank’s campus banking region manager. “But we will never contact you to ask for your personal information.”Everyone is susceptible, Adams said, because the frauds are not isolated to the University community.“It’s just a coincidence that college-aged people get scammed,” Adams said. “Anyone who has a credit card is susceptible to this. There’s no age limit. Old people, young people, rich people, poor people — anyone could be scammed.”Phishers send out fraudulent e-mails to customers from a variety of banks, but only TCF Bank customers were affected at the University because most students use TCF Bank on campus, Adams said. “It has nothing to do with being a TCF Bank customer,” Adams said. “I get phishing e-mails from Citibank and other places. The bad guys cast a wide net. That’s the way they suck people in.”The phishers might send e-mails to 100 people, Adams explained, and only 75 of those might be TCF Bank customers. “It’s only the ones who would logically think we’re sending them an e-mail who respond,” Adams said.Phishers obtain names from directories and e-mail lists by buying them from a marketing association. For example, Adams said when you subscribe to a magazine, it can resell your information. She urges people to check an organization’s privacy policy every time they give out their personal information.TCF Bank recoups losses from customers who suffer from the scams. “We repay them because we definitely want to take care of them even though it’s not our fault,” Adams said. In response to the scams, TCF Bank is planning to expand its program of educational seminars at the University on financial matters this semester from one — a seminar targeted at international students called “Banking 101” — to four. The programs will start in February, and one of the topics will be identity theft.

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