Phishing fraudsters have found another group of victims to target - people who want to donate to political campaigns.
Late on Sunday, SurfControl, a web and e-mail filtering software supplier, noticed two apparent scams targeting people wishing to donate money to John Kerry's US presidential campaign. E-mail with the subject line, "President John Kerry, please vote and contribute," directed recipients to two websites, one registered in India and the other in Texas.
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The so-called phishing scam - stealing credit card numbers and other personal information by using spam e-mail to direct people to spoofed websites - has been around for years, but this is the first political phishing scam SurfControl has observed, said Susan Larson, vice-president of global content at SurfControl.
This latest scam does not appear to have a political motivation - just an economic one, Larson said. The scam e-mail appeared within days of the end of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, she noted.
Phishing scammers can use current events to support their claims, Larson said. "They want people to think they have to do this now," she added. "That is typical of the way they get the best hit."
Both sites were designed to look like Kerry's official campaign site, johnkerry.com, Larson said. Neither of the apparently spoofed sites was still operating as of late Tuesday, which along with the odd registration locations, led SurfControl to conclude the sites were not legitimate, Larson said.
The apparently bogus e-mail directed recipients to http://testhost.yahoogoogle.biz/JohnKerry/contribute.html, registered in India, and http://www.johnkerry_edwards.org, registered to an individual in Texas, according to SurfControl.
"It was a very legitimate looking-e-mail," Larson said.
People with concerns about e-mail asking for political donations should contact the campaign directly - in this case, at johnkerry.com, Larson advised.
Scammers using so-call phishing tactics typically send out e-mail targeting users of financial institutions or other e-commerce sites. The bogus e-mail message often tells recipients there is a problem with their accounts, and that they need to re-enter their bank account number or credit card number at a website designed to look like the legitimate e-commerce site.
An estimated 57 million US adults had received phishing scam e-mail as of May, according to analyst Gartner. Phishing attacks increased 500% between January and May 2004, and an estimated 3% of phishing e-mail recipients fill out the forms on spoofed websites, Larson said.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service