Victims looking for government services — such as a replacement Social Security card — search online and click through to a fake government site. The unwitting person then enters their personal information and, often, are asked to provide credit card information to pay a service fee.
In some cases, the fraudsters also ask victims to mail personal documents, like birth certificates, driver’s license or employee ID.
“By the time the victim realizes it is a scam, they may have had extra charges billed to their credit/debit card, had a third-party designee added to their [Employer Identification Number] card and never received the service(s) or documents requested,” the FBI said in an April 7 alert. “Additionally, all of their PII data has been compromised by the criminals running the websites and can be used for any number of illicit purposes.”
Alert: Criminals Host Fake Government Websites (http://www.ic3.gov/media/2015/150407-2.aspx)
To avoid being scammed, users should make sure they are on an official government site, signified by the .gov domain.
The FBI noted “the volume and loss amounts associated with these websites are minimal to date,” though the kinds of information being stolen can have significant impact on the victims.
The FBI offered a number of tips for users looking for government services online:
• Use search engines or other websites to research the advertised services, person or company;
• Search the Internet for any negative feedback or reviews on the government services company, their website, email addresses, telephone numbers or other searchable identifiers;
• Research the company policies before completing a transaction;
• Be cautious when surfing the Internet or responding to advertisements and special offers;
• Be cautious when dealing with persons/companies from outside the country; and
• Maintain records for all online transactions.
For more, US-CERT offers guidance on avoiding social engineering and phishing scams (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-014).