Using a badge of authority in phishing is nothing new. In the past, we've seen the FBI, Interpol, DOJ and a lot of other official agencies spoofed (impersonated) to trick people into giving up their personal and financial details.
Here is a phishmail that got past my spam filter yesterday:
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2008 16:02:36 -0500
From: "Internal Revenue Service"
Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
Subject: IRS Annual Calculations - Tax Refund Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that
you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $270,25.
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 2 business days in order to
To access the form for your tax refund, please click here (link removed).
The links on these spam e-mails are designed to entice the unwary to give up their personal and financial details (later used to commit financial crimes)through social engineering techniques (trickery). Just clicking on a link can download malicious software designed to steal information from your computer (which will also be used in financial crimes) or it will turn your computer into a spam spewing zombie.
If you hover (don't click) your mouse on a link and read the address that shows up on the bottom of your screen, it will show the true address. In the above example, it reveals and address of a Russian domain (astrasong.ru).
It's unlikely that the IRS is outsourcing tax preparation services to the Russian Union!
I went to the IRS site and discovered that they just updated their Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft page the same day I received this phishmail.
The page has links to all their previous warnings and information on where to report phishing activity involving the IRS. Also included are government educational resources (recommended reading if you haven't seen them before).