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WASHINGTON — The Navy Federal Credit Union warned this week of a new e-mail scam targeting its customers, the fourth such attack since June.

Credit union officials said the e-mails have a subject line of “Important Access Agreement Update” and state “In order for Navy Federal Credit Union to guarantee your online security, you need to update your account information.”

The e-mail is a phishing scam, an attempt to steal account information and passwords through official-looking messages. Officials said it also contains a link to an unsecure site not maintained by the credit union where users are asked to submit personal information about their accounts.

“We’re been using newsletters, educating employees, doing what we can to help people see these red flags before they get into trouble,” said Loren Carson, spokeswoman for the Navy credit union.

“We want people to know we do not send e-mails to personal accounts, and not to click on those links.”

Whenever you get these e-mails, experts recommend you:

Call to make sure it’s real. When in doubt, call your bank and ask if the request is legitimate or a scam.Check for warnings. Groups such as the Credit Union National Association update their sites with the latest phishing scams and education efforts.Report fraud. If you think you’ve been victimized, call your credit union immediately and ask that your account be secured.Carson said more consumers seem to be getting the message about the scams, but phishing attacks are still a major problem.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group, an industry association including financial institutions and online retailers, reported that more than 19,000 new phishing sites appeared between July and October, up 46 percent from the previous four months.

Dorothy Steffens, vice president of Web services for the CUNA, said her organization has been used in more than 70 phishing scams this year alone.

“One of the things we’ve been telling consumers is that no financial institution of any type is going to communicate with you via e-mail for you to update your personal information,” she said.

“If something is unclear, always give a call to your credit union or bank.”

Steffens added that getting a personalized e-mail, or even one with a company’s logo attached, is no guarantee of authenticity. Scammers often include those kinds of details to fool customers into believing their deceptive e-mails.

Doug Payne, vice president of marketing at the Air Force Federal Credit Union, said the credit union has not received reports of similar scams but has been vigilant about keeping consumers educated about the issue of fraudulent e-mails.

“We tell them, ‘If there’s a question, check on our Web site,’” he said. “Never click on a link within an e-mail and give information that way.”

Carson echoed that advice, and said customers who believe they’ve been victimized can contact the credit union for help in securing their accounts and preventing additional fraud.

For more information, visit www.navyfcu.org or www.cuna.org.

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