FBI Warns of Phony Sites Offering Government Services

The FBI has warned consumers about a rash of phony websites posing as government services.

Consumers looking for a replacement Social Security card or government-issued Employer Identification Number (EIN) are running into a slew of fraudulent search engine results and equally phony websites.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center today issued an advisory warning that consumer and business personal information is at risk because of these scams.

“Although the volume and loss amounts associated with these websites are minimal to date, the victims are having their PII data compromised which may be used by criminals for any number of other illicit activities, ranging from the creation of fraudulent IDs and passports to fraudulent loans and tax refunds,” the FBI said.

Victims who fall for these phony sites are giving up their name, physical address, phone number, email address, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and mother’s maiden name—all the ingredients for a successful identity theft campaign.

The FBI said that sporadically during the past three years, it has received complaints of these fraudulent sites posing as government services and resources. Not only are the criminals stealing personal information, but in some cases they’re successful in swindling fees for these phony services out of victims—anywhere from $29 to $199.

Victims searching online for particular government web-based resources are usually met with fraudulent results appearing up high in a search.

“The victim completes the required fraudulently posted forms for the government service they need. The victim submits the form online, believing they are providing their PII to government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, or similar agency based on the service they need,” the FBI advisory said. “Once the forms are completed and submitted, the fraudulent website usually requires a fee to complete the service requested.”

In some cases, the scammers notify the victims to send additional personal information, including a birth certificate, driver’s license or employee information via snail mail.

“The victim is then told to wait a few days to several weeks for processing. 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 EIN card, and never received the service(s) or documents requested,” the FBI said. “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. The potential harm gets worse for those who send their birth certificate or other government-issued identification to the perpetrator.”

The FBI advises consumers to verify whom they’re dealing with, be cautious about Internet searches, do online research feedback for a supposed government resource, and be vigilant about protecting personal information, in particular in transactions conducted with parties outside the U.S.

ISIS, ISIL Sympathizers Compromise WordPress Vulns

In a separate FBI advisory today, the agency warned individuals sympathetic to ISIS and ISIL are taking advantage of WordPress vulnerabilities to deface websites.

“The defacements have affected Web site operations and the communication platforms of news organizations, commercial entities, religious institutions, federal/state/local governments, foreign governments, and a variety of other domestic and international Web sites,” the FBI said. “Although the defacements demonstrate low-level hacking sophistication, they are disruptive and often costly in terms of lost business revenue and expenditures on technical services to repair infected computer systems.”

Specifically, the FBI said the hackers are taking advantage of flaws in popular WordPress plugins, some of which have been patched.

“Successful exploitation of the vulnerabilities could result in an attacker gaining unauthorized access, bypassing security restrictions, injecting scripts, and stealing cookies from computer systems or network servers,” the FBI said. “An attacker could install malicious software; manipulate data; or create new accounts with full user privileges for future Web site exploitation.”

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