"We detected irregular activity on your American Express," says in the email. "As the Primary Contact, you must verify your account activity before you can continue using your card, and upon verification, we will remove any restrictions placed on your account."
By clicking on the included link, the victims are taken to a spoofed AmEx webpage where they are urged to log in with their user ID and password. Once they have done that, they are faced with another message urging them to update their personal information: "This is not an optional step, if you do not complete the next form we will be forced to Lock your account."
The form that "needs" to be filled asks for a bucketload of personal and financial information that should not be shared with just anyone (name, address, Social Security number, phone number, AmEx account number, credit card number, date of birth, etc.):
And then, for the grand finale, the phishers request victims to enter their email address and the password to the email account. Sharing this information is, again, defined as "not optional".
Finally, the victims are redirected to the legitimate AmEx website, but all the information needed by the phishers to hijack the victims' AmEx account and even impersonate them online and offline has already been stolen.
"The initial email is quite a crude attempt. Paradoxically however, the bogus web pages used in the scam are fairly sophisticated," points out Hoax-Slayer, and advises users never to login to any online accounts by clicking a link in an email.
Users who have fallen for the scheme are advised to contact American Express as soon as possible to report the matter, and to immediately change all the passwords they shared with the phishers.