Thursday, March 02, 2006
Not Fishing … Phishing!
From the New York Post - March 2, 2006 – "PHISHING EXPEDITION"
INTERNET thieves have done it now — they've pissed off the IRS.
The Internal Revenue Service is investigating phishing operations that are trying to coax vital data like Social Security numbers and ATM pin codes out of unwitting taxpayers. But the kicker to the latest scheme is that these phishers (yes, cool people spell it with a "ph") are pretending to be from the IRS.
"We take this very seriously," J. Russell George, the inspector general for tax administration at the Treasury Department, told me when I reached him this week. "It bothers us very much when people attempt to use a very important division of the U.S. government to enrich themselves and cheat people."
The Treasury and IRS are actively investigating the antics and are especially worried because now — at tax filing time — people are most vulnerable to this particular con game. Here's why.
The thieves are sending out official-looking messages with the title "Internal Revenue Service IRS.gov" at the top. Underneath are the words "Department of the Treasury." The official seal of the IRS (and, no, it's not a bureaucrat with his hand in someone's pocket) is at the top of the message.
"After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity," the "IRS" note says, "we have determined that your are eligible to receive a tax refund of $63.80. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it."
"Wow!" a taxpayer is supposed to say. "Please tell me more."
"A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline," the note says in strained syntax. "To access the form for your tax refund, please click here."
To give an additional bit of authenticity the phishers also added the tag line "Copyright 2006, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved."
When you click through to the second page, the phishers ask for your Social Security number, a personal identification number (or PIN) for an automated teller machine and a credit card, so that the $68.80 can be placed in your account.
Don't do it! It's all a hoax.
But you have to admit that these crooks are pretty crafty. No round numbers for them. The 68 dollars and 80 cents makes you think it just could be true. Since this is tax time and people are waiting for their refunds, the IRS is concerned that people might fall for it.
What if you give the phishers your vital statistics? Well, they'll probably be using your credit cards until you figure it out — with you, of course, waiting the 6-to-9 days for your tax "refund" to show up. But the Social Security number and you PIN will give the crooks pleasure long after that and you'll be trying to get your financial identity back for years.
Inspector General George says his agency is cooperating with other parts of the government to track down the perps.
Investigators wouldn't say how they were proceeding. But I can think of some very phreaky things they could do.