July 13, 2006
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 “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com”.
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
• 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.
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
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.