'Phishing' Scam Targets Thrift Savings Plan Participants
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2006 Participants, as well as some non-participants, in the Thrift Savings Plan are targets of a "phishing" scam, an official with the board administering the program said today.
Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, said phishing is an "attempt to get recipients of the unsolicited e-mail to compromise themselves by giving up their personal financial information."
Thrift Savings Plan administrators would never request personal or financial information via e-mail, Trabucco said. "Do not respond to unsolicited e-mail, and never give out information of a personal nature (through) unsolicited e-mails," he said.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board alerted Thrift Savings Plan coordinators to the scam in a March 17 memo, the day after the scam was discovered. The memo described it as an unsolicited e-mail with a link to a bogus Web site appearing to be the thrift plan's account-access site.
The bogus site asks for a recipient's social security and Thrift Savings Plan personal identification numbers. Entering this information takes the user to another screen where they are asked for financial information, including a credit card number, he said, adding that this information can be used to steal an individual's identity.
As long as participants have not responded to this scam e-mail, their accounts have not been compromised, investment board officials said in the memo. Those who did respond should contact their financial institutions immediately for guidance. They should also call the Thrift Savings Plan at (877) 968-3778 and ask to have their account access blocked, according to the memo.
Phishing e-mails generally appear to be from a business or organization the recipient may deal with, according to a Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert issued in June 2005. It may request that the recipient update, validate or confirm account information, the alert said.
Participants are encouraged not to attempt to access their accounts by clicking links offered in any e-mail, according to the memo. Only by opening a new Internet browser and typing the Thrift Savings Plan's Web site into the address field can a participant be sure of accessing the authentic thrift plan Web site.
The thrift plan is a retirement savings plan for 3.6 million federal civilians and servicemembers, Trabucco said. Officials don't know how many plan participants the scam has affected, but the FBI is investigating, he added.