Have you ever received an e-mail offering you a unique and irresistible offer
on a new mortgage for your house? If you didn't request the offer originally,
you are probably a potential victim of mortgage email phishing.
And, chances are you have received not only one of these e-mail scams,
but dozens - each one with better terms than the last. It's not just the people
who own homes who receive these, but any one of any age who has an e-mail account.
What's going on?
is the way unscrupulous e-mail scammers
have devised to get your personal banking information, credit card numbers and
passwords, social security numbers, and all of your personal income and debt
information. Once they have your vital information they have the opportunity
to access your financial accounts and help themselves. They can charge your
credit cards past the limits and empty out your checking and savings accounts.
All this can happen while you wait for the quick reply to your on-line mortgage
However, the reply never comes! Or, the reply says, "Sorry, you don't
qualify." You delete their e-mail, they have all your vital information,
and you have no way to begin tracing them if you should need to. It might be
weeks before they actually use the information they gleaned from you so you
won't make a connection between the false application and the possible
disappearance of your funds.
The e-mail mortgage phishing scams are tempting, especially to those
with weak or poor credit. They state that even if your credit record is not
good, and even if other finance companies have turned you down, they are willing
to refinance your home and consolidate your debts and loan you between $75,000
and $1,000,000 . The payments, of course, will be ever so low - to suit your
particular pocket. And the interest? A measly 1% or 2%. You're probably already
pre-approved, so just fill out the short application and they will help you
out right away. There are hundreds of variations of these terms, some more realistic
There are millions of e-mails for these mortgage promotional scams sent out
each month. Statistically, it doesn't take a large percent of the people responding
to make phishing a lucrative business. Less than a third of the email
spam is sent from the United States, which makes taking legal action
more difficult. Those doing the phishing use false e-mails and fraudulent websites.
They can redirect your confidential information through several different countries,
creating a difficult and, quite frankly, an impossible task for finding them
and recovering your money. The websites they use are impressive looking and
often are clones of well-known banks or mortgage institutions - colors and logos
can be identical. Hijacking trusted names gives the unsuspecting borrower a
false sense of security.
"There are no free lunches" will always be a good rule of thumb
in evaluating spam - any spam on any subject - but especially regarding
mortgages. 'Spam' means you didn't request the information
in the first place. If you didn't request it, something phishy is going
Here's some more hints that you are being phished:
- The return email is garbled letters, such as firstname.lastname@example.org
Some spammers will use the e-mail address of a legitimate bank or mortgage
company. These may or may not be spam. However, if the e-mail IS from your
bank, they will address you by name. No bank or mortgage company these days
sends out generic letters with fantastic offers that weren't requested in
the first place.
- The e-mail is being sent on Friday night or Saturday, and in order to take
advantage of the special offer you need to respond within 24 hours. Of course,
the banks and mortgage companies are closed on Sundays, so you can't call
and confirm to see if the offer is valid. Legitimate mortgage companies will
never have a weekend special.
- The form you need to fill out comes in an 'attachment' to the e-mail. These
unrequested attachments usually contain viruses or spy ware.
- The application you are being asked to fill out is not on a secure site.
How to tell if a site is secure?
Look at the address line that you are filling out.
Most sites start with: http://
A SECURE site will start with https://
(There's a little 's' in that one - means 'secure')
Also, look in the bottom right hand corner of the site. There should be a
gold padlock there. If both of these items aren't there, you are probably
What can you do to be safe if you are tempted to respond to a mortgage offer
that appeals to your particular needs?
- Phone the company up (after confirming the phone number through the yellow
pages or white pages). If there's no phone number, you are being phished.
Also, if there is no street address (which you also need to confirm before
replying) you will not end up with a legitimate mortgage.
- If you do locate a live person or company, ask them to mail you the application.
Do not fill out an application on line.
- Change your passwords on all credit card and checking accounts at least
once a month. Keep your virus checkers up-to-date on a daily basis.
- The most important thing you can do: Apply Common Sense! The pot of gold
at the end of the rainbow will not arrive at your doorstep via spam e-mail!