It’s fitting that the financial company most targeted in phishing attacks, Citibank, would be the first to introduce a new email format that goes a long way towards helping users identify legitimate email messages.
The personalized emails (click on inset to enlarge) include not only the name of the recipient, but also the last 4 digits of the user’s ATM card. While simple personalization with the customer name would help many users identify legitimate emails, it’s far from fool-proof.
First, there’s the relatively common practice of including first name and/or last names in email addresses. Also, some phishers are using direct marketing tactics and first running email addresses through various databases to append actual names and other info to the email record in order to develop a personalized pitch (see ZD-Net article).
Citibank’s new email format was announced to customers through a short message on the top of the online banking screen in early May. It is also now mentioned in the bank’s main FAQ page.
This is a great first step in winning back the confidence of users. Eventually email standards will evolve so that the email client will be able to readily identify legitimate emails, but that could be years in the future.
If you are considering a similar approach, you might want to let users choose the name and identifying information that appears in the personalization box. In February, we reported on a UK security initiative that took that approach.
For more information:
- Previous NetBanker post on eBay’s personalized email strategy
- Security & Privacy from Online Banking Report (#93/94)
Editor’s Note: Citibank received an OBR Best of the Web award for this and other security features in Online Banking Report #119, "Marketing Security."