SouthTrust Bank customers targeted by scam e-mails

Von Linda Rosencrance

Contrary to information in some of the e-mails landing in the in-boxes of SouthTrust Bank customers, the institution didn"t suffer server problems converting from the year 2004 to 2005. Instead, according to the bank, the authors of the scam e-mails are phishing for customers" personal information, including names and account numbers.

Phishing scams use e-mail to try and trick users into revealing sensitive information. The scammers provide links to phony Web pages that look like legitimate e-commerce sites, where they ask a user to enter his personal data. However, the scammer, not the e-commerce site, is getting that information.

The particular scam targeting SouthTrust Bank customers -- there have been several similar e-mails making the rounds over the past few weeks -- claims to be from the bank"s online staff. It informs users that "the passage from 2004 to 2005 caused a series of problems in our server"s database," and urgently asks users to reactivate their online accounts. It tells them how to do so and provides a link to a phony site.

The e-mail concludes, "This instruction has been sent to all bank customers and is obligatory to follow."

Nannette Sheaffer, a spokeswoman for the Birmingham, Ala.-based bank, which is owned by Wachovia Bank NA, said SouthTrust is aware of the fraudulent e-mails and has posted an alert at its Web site.

"Banks never ask you to put any of your personal information into an e-mail or fill out a form online like that," Sheaffer said. "What we tell consumers to do is delete. And we are fast and furiously trying to get these (scammers) stopped. We have taken care of a few of them, but they just keep cropping up from different locations."