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For Immediate Release
July 13, 2006
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CONSUMER ALERT: CON ARTISTS IMITATE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND BUSINESSES IN E-MAIL SCAMS

Most people can identify spam--get rich quick offers, fast and easy ways to lose weight and pre-approved credit offers in the subject headline of e-mails. It immediately raises red flags and the delete button easily becomes your best friend. But con artists are becoming increasingly deceptive and clever as they mask attempts to con people out of money and valuable information. By creating Web sites and e-mails similar to legitimate businesses, organizations and government offices, con artists can dupe even the most savvy consumer. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. advises consumers that they must also be wary of e-mails and offers that appear to have been sent from reputable businesses or agencies.

In a current e-mail scam, con artists mimic the IRS Web sites and e-mails. Claiming the recipient is eligible for a tax refund due from the IRS, the e-mail sends unsuspecting taxpayers to a link that requests personal information including social security numbers and credit card information. The IRS reported a recent rise in complaints of such scams.

The technique, called “phishing,” (pronounced “fishing”) is a ruse con artists use to trick consumers into disclosing personal and financial data. The data can be used to run up charges on existing credit cards, apply for new loans, services or benefits in the victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.

The bogus IRS e-mails claim to be from “tax-refunds@irs.gov” or “admin@irs.gov”. The Web site is identical to the real IRS site–an untrained eye would hardly detect any difference. Sadly, this is not the only institution that has had its Web site copied. Earlier scams have pretended to be e-mails from banks, internet service providers, or businesses with which the recipient has an ongoing relationship. Consumers should remember that almost all reputable businesses and organizations do not ask for account information via e-mail, especially pin numbers and entire account numbers.

Attorney General Curran offers the following suggestions to consumers on how to recognize “phishing” e-mails and how to avoid them. He advises consumers to watch for e-mails that:

• Urge you to act quickly because your account may be suspended or closed.
• Don’t address you by name, but uses a more generic title, like “Dear Taxpayer”;
• Ask for account numbers, social security numbers, passwords or other personal information.

If you receive these type of e-mails:

• Do not open any attachments;
• Do not click on any links;
• Delete them immediately.

The e-mails themselves or the links and attachments within the e-mails could contain hacking codes that could infect your computer. Even if you recognize a link as belonging to your bank or credit union, con artists can “fake” a link that will direct you to a different Web site that looks exactly like the site of your bank or business. If you want to contact the business in relation to the e-mail message, close your browser and contact the business directly over the Internet. Never use the link!!

“Con artists are continuously trying to find new ways to get your money. Phishing scams trick consumers into disclosing valuable personal information. Never give out this information to anybody unless you initiated the contact,’” he said.

   

Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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