Fake IRS E-Mail Scam Goes Phishing - InformationWeek
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11/30/2005
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Fake IRS E-Mail Scam Goes Phishing

Users are now being targeted with a new phishing attack posing as a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service.

A new phishing attack posing as a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service is using a configuration problem on the GovBenefits.gov Web site to fool users into thinking they're safe in offering up personal information such as Social Security and credit card numbers.

The fraud begins with an e-mail supposedly from the IRS, which claims the recipient is owed a tax refund. In the message from "[email protected]," a link is embedded to a site where recipients can supposedly collect the refund.

So far, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with U.K.-based security company Sophos, that's not out of the ordinary. But this phishing campaign goes a step farther.

"The link bounces you off a U.S. government site onto one owned by the criminals, who are waiting to steal your credit card and Social Security number," said Cluley.

The site, GovBenefits.gov, hasn't been hacked, said Cluley, but he believes it has had its security configuration incorrectly set so that URL requests are easily redirected.

That's providing an opening for the phishing scheme to do its damage. "Absolutely, this is devious," Cluley said. "The URL really does take people to the real site, but only for a moment before their browsers are redirected to the bogus site that poses as an IRS page. The e-mail even instructs people to cut and paste the address into their browsers' address bars, which will make them even more reassured that it's not a phishing attack."

The attack takes advantage of the incorrect GovBenefits.gov security configuration to bounce people to the bogus site run by the phishers. There, the fraudsters instruct users to enter their Social Security and credit card numbers to deposit the bogus tax refund in their credit card account.

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