updated 10/9/2008 3:18:58 PM ET 2008-10-09T19:18:58

E-mail scams that "phish" for personal information may increase amid the current financial crisis, the Federal Trade Commission warned consumers Thursday.

Separately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said it has received numerous reports of a fraudulent e-mail that appears to be from the government agency. Its subject line reads, "Funds wired into your account are stolen."

"Scammers are taking advantage of upheavals in the financial marketplace to confuse consumers into parting with valuable personal information," the FTC said in an advisory note on its Web site.

Phishers send e-mails disguised as being from an official institution, such as a bank or mortgage company. The agency said consumers should take extra caution in responding to any e-mails that look as if they are from financial institutions because of the increased likelihood of scams.

"These messages may be from 'phishers' looking to use personal information — account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers — to run up bills or commit other crimes in a consumer's name," the FTC said.

That, according to the FDIC, is what the e-mail that appears to be sent from its offices attempts to do.

"Recipients should consider the intent of the executable file as a malicious attempt to collect personal or confidential information, some of which may be used to gain unauthorized access to online banking services or to conduct identity theft," FDIC said in a statement on its Web site.

Almost no banks or financial institutions request that type of information from their customers.

The FTC issued a guide to help consumers "stay on guard" against these types of scams. It can be read on the Web at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt089.shtm

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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