If The FBI Director Can Fall for Phishing, So Can You

by Jason Unger

Despite the overall safety of online banking, there will continue to be scams targeting consumers who aren’t using their common sense when logging in.

It can happen to anyone — yes, that means you — like it just happened to Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI.

According to a speech Mueller gave at the Commonwealth Club of California (as reported by the Washington Post), he received an email he thought was from his bank, but wasn’t. He explains:

Not long ago, the head one of our nation’s domestic agencies received an e-mail purporting to be from his bank. It looked perfectly legitimate, and asked him to verify some information. He started to follow the instructions, but then realized this might not be such a good idea.

It turned out that he was just a few clicks away from falling into a classic Internet “phishing” scam–“phishing” with a “P-H.” This is someone who spends a good deal of his professional life warning others about the perils of cyber crime. Yet he barely caught himself in time.

He definitely should have known better. I can say this with certainty, because it was me.

After changing all our passwords, I tried to pass the incident off to my wife as a “teachable moment.” To which she replied: “It is not my teachable moment. However, it is our money. No more Internet banking for you!”

So with that as a backdrop, today I want to talk about the nature of cyber threats, the FBI’s role in combating them, and finally, how we can help each other to keep them at bay.

This story has a positive and negative spin. (For text of the full speech, click here.)

On the plus side, it shows that anyone can fall for a phishing scam, and reinforces the need to use your brain when logging online.

On the negative side, it gives the impression that online banking is not safe. “If they director of the FBI isn’t using it, why should you?” (And he’s probably had cyber security training.)

Remember, the FDIC says online banking is safe. But you always need to be on your game when sending your personal information online. Use common sense. If something seems out of the ordinary, it probably is.

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