Magazine article Information Today

Tax-Time Phishing Scams out to Lure the Unsuspecting

Magazine article Information Today

Tax-Time Phishing Scams out to Lure the Unsuspecting

Article excerpt

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is once again one of the most targeted organizations for hackers who are busy trying to obtain Social Security numbers, bank account information, and other data from unsuspecting taxpayers.

Fraudsters didn't even wait until April this year, when people are more likely to think a message from the IRS is legitimate.

In early February, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S. CERT, which coordinates defense against and responses to cyberattacks nationwide) reported that phishing scams are circulating via fraudulent IRS emails that offer users stimulus package payments. These emails included text that attempts to convince users to follow a link to a website or to fill in personal information on an attached document or website. (I even received one such phishing attempt.)

It's no surprise that the IRS is a popular target since email scams of all types are on the rise, says Justin Yurek, president of ID Watchdog, Inc. in Denver.

ID Theft Rates Continue to Climb

During 2008, ID theft attempts, including phishing, increased by 9.9 million, or 22% over the previous year, with the most popular bogus messages designed to look as though they are from the IRS and the nation's largest banks, according to Yurek. He expects ID theft attempts to grow by another 30% this year.

A relatively new phishing tactic this year purports to offer a refund/credit because of the email recipient's 501(c)(3) status, says Fred Touchette, senior security analyst at AppRiver, LLC, a company based in Gulf Breeze, Fla., that provides secure messaging solutions. The typical taxpayer doesn't qualify for any such credit because 501(c)(3) is a designation for a nonprofit corporation.

Touchette expected as many as 20,000 IRS-focused phishing attempts to surface daily by the end of the tax-filing season.

Fraud Turns to Social Networking Sites

Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer of Websense, Inc., adds that fraudsters are using more than just email schemes. In 2009, fraudsters have expanded their efforts to blogs, forums, and social networking sites, where they post fraudulent URLs in hopes of leading taxpayers to bogus refunds or tax credits. Text messaging is another new tool that fraudsters are using. …

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