Fact Check


Published Jan. 23, 2004


Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (FDIC)

Phish Bait:   FDIC (the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

To whom it may concern;

In cooperation with the Department Of Homeland Security, Federal, State and Local Governments your account has been denied insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation due to suspected violations of the Patriot Act. While we have only a limited amount of evidence gathered on your account at this time it is enough to suspect that currency violations may have occurred in your account and due to this activity we have withdrawn Federal Deposit Insurance on your account until we verify that your account has not been used in a violation of the Patriot Act.

As a result Department Of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has advised the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to suspend all deposit insurance on your account until such time as we can verify your identity and your account information.

Please verify through our IDVerify below. This information will be checked against a federal government database for identity verification. This only takes up to a minute and when we have verified your identity you will be notified of said verification and all suspensions of insurance on your account will be lifted.


Failure to use IDVerify below will cause all insurance for your account to be terminated and all records of your account history will be sent to the
Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C. for analysis and verification. Failure to provide proper identity may also result in a visit from Local, State or Federal Government or Homeland Security Officials.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Donald E. Powell
Chairman Emeritus FDIC

John D. Hawke, Jr.
Comptroller of the Currency

Michael E. Bartell
Chief Information Officer

Origins:   This phishing scheme, unleashed on 23 January 2004, was short on craft (it was spammed as a plain-text message, with no attempt to make it look like a legitimate communication), but long on guile. Rather than phishing for customers of a particular bank, these scammers tried to fool recipients into thinking they were dealing with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), a government-created agency that insures customer bank accounts. (Thus the message would apply to nearly everyone who received it, because most people have at least one account with an FDIC-insured financial institution.) And they ratcheted up the fear factor another notch by warning recipients not only had the insurance on their accounts been cancelled, but they were under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security "due to suspected violations of the Patriot Act." Ah, but all could be set right by simply following a link to the FDIC's web site and entering a wealth of personal information . . .

The link provided in the message didn't take users to the real FDIC site, of course, but to bogus mock-up FDIC sites hosted on servers in Pakistan:


Those sites were shut down soon after federal investigators learned of the scam:

FDIC spokesman David Barr said the bogus Web site was shut down when the agency was alerted by consumers who received the e-mail. Officials are investigating who set up the scam, he said.

"It's just another creative way to separate people from their money," Barr said. "Some people are smart and realize that it doesn't sound right, but a lot of people may respond to it. It does seem like it's official, but the FDIC does not and would not ask consumers unsolicited for personal account information."

A few days later (25 January 2004), the phish bait messages were sent out again, this time with a link directing recipients to phony FDIC web sites established on servers in places such as Seoul, South Korea, and Taipei, Taiwan.

The FBI and the FDIC have posted a press release about the fraudulent e-mails on the real FDIC site.

Last updated:   25 January 2004

  References: Sources:

    Associated Press.   "Government Shuts Down Web Site, Investigates Scam."

    23 January 2004.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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