Alert: Con Artists Imitate Government Agencies
and Businesses in E-mail Scams
BALTIMORE, MD (May 24, 2007) - 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 Douglas F. Gansler advises consumers that they
must 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 involved
fake 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.
To avoid becoming
a victim of a “phishing” scam,
Attorney General Gansler advises consumers to watch for e-mails
- Urge you to
act quickly because your account may be suspended or
- Don’t address
you by name, but uses a more generic title, like “Dear
- Ask for account
numbers, social security numbers, passwords or other personal
If you receive these
type of e-mails:
- Do not open any
- Do not click on
- 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!!