Computer Crime Research Center


Don't touch that e-mail, phishing

Date: April 11, 2006

The Internal Revenue Service has a new warning for Americans: Don't touch that e-mail. Back off the mouse. A modern con has wormed its way onto the tax-collectors' "Dirty Dozen" tax schemes for 2006 posted at

So-called "phishing," or mass e-mails designed to dupe recipients into handing over valuable information, has become so prevalent that as the April 17 filing deadline nears, the IRS has set up a dedicated mailbox to field complaints about the practice.

In March, the government investigated almost 6,000 complaints of tax-related "phishing."

"The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails asking for personal information," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said in a statement. "Don't be taken in by these criminals."

A simple and time-tested tact is relied upon by those intent on committing fraud.

Hoping to capitalize on people's thirst for that bigger refund, scammers send out mass e-mailings from an address telling recipients the IRS needs additional personal data in order to process an income tax refund check.

The sites are generally fake and used to collect the data entered by innocent taxpayers or a link buried in the message infects a user's computer with a virus, IRS officials said.

One "spam" mailing now circulating directs victims to a Web site constructed to exactly resemble that of the IRS. Upon reaching the Internet location, high-tech tools of crime allow the perpetrators to steal personal data such as bank account information and Social Security numbers.
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