Scammers love to use current events to dupe consumers, and the financial turmoil occurring today offers the perfect opportunity for one of the most popular forms of fraud — phishing. I’m Ellen Cannon with the Bankrate.com Personal Finance Minute.

A phishing scam typically uses a phony e-mail to collect your personal or financial information under false pretenses. And the recent bank consolidations are the pretext for the latest wave of phishing messages.

For example, when Wells Fargo took over Wachovia last year, scam emails urged people to click on a link to update their personal data in order to keep their account in order.

Phishing emails look like they come from the real bank, so you need to know what to look for. Before you click on a link, always check with the institution, regardless of how urgent the email message is. Keep your anti-virus and spam software up to date. And if you do fall victim to a scam, take immediate action to protect your money and identity by calling your financial institution.

For more personal finance news, visit Bankrate.com. I’m Ellen Cannon.