Media Center

Phishing Scams Involving "Government" Emails


MADISON - In order to keep Wisconsin consumers aware of all malicious threats, the Wisconsin Department of Justice issues this release on a new internet phishing scam.

Phishing is a scheme in which Internet scammers send consumers e-mails disguised as memos from well-known retailers, banks, credit card companies and government agencies.  These unsolicited messages often convey a sense of urgency or warn of account termination.  They encourage the consumer to click on their web address which links directly to the website of the business or agency.  However, consumers are then redirected to a fake website that has probably been cut and pasted from the legitimate website.  Subtle changes are made to these sham websites to lure consumers into entering sensitive information or to allow a computer virus to be downloaded.


A phishing campaign has been detected within the past 24 hours, which is designed to trick computer users into clicking on a malicious link. Clicking this link would cause your machine to become infected  with the Zeus malware. The emails would have appeared to come from various governmental agencies.  However, the actual website you are asked to click on is not a government (.gov) site.  Opening phishing e-mails and clicking onto their counterfeit web-links also poses the danger of infecting your computer with a virus.  Some viruses contain spyware programs that can track your personal computer use and monitor web surfing.  Hidden spyware programs can also covertly change computer settings, promote unwanted pop-up ads, cause your computer to malfunction, lose data and even crash. 


"It is important to use caution at all times while dealing with unsolicited emails," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "In the same way scammers use fake emails claiming to be from credit card companies, they now use emails claiming to be from government agencies. It is important to keep in mind that you cannot trust any unsolicited emails, even if it claims to be from the government."


Any unexpected emails from the government asking for personal information should be thoroughly checked before response. Verify that email addresses match those listed on official government agency websites, or call the agency in question if you have any doubts.


In order to protect personal information:


  • Do NOT trust unsolicited email.
  • Do NOT click links and attachments in unsolicited email messages.
  • Remember that NO legitimate agency or business would ask for personal information in an unsolicited email.


Reports of these scams can be made to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer ProtectionConsumer Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.