DOJ scams its own employees

The Department of Justice is charged with prosecuting "phishing" schemes, but it recently engaged in one of its own.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 30, 2009 5:45PM (EST)

You know those "phishing" e-mails, the ones that try to get you to divulge all your financial information, your blood type and your dog's maiden name? It's always a good idea not to fall for one. After all, you never know who's responsible for sending it.

Department of Justice employees found that out the hard way earlier this month, the Associated Press reports. Fortunately, at least some staffers realized that an e-mail from a "Thrift Savings Plan Account Coordinator" asking for financial information was a scam, and warned their colleagues not to be taken in. Then came the really interesting part: the DOJ admitted that it was responsible for the e-mail, that it had cooked up the message and its companion Web site in order to test "employee security awareness."

This may sound like a cruel joke -- and yeah, it is -- but count me as someone who thinks it's actually a great idea, at least in theory. In practice, it sounds like the plan was a little botched, but it's still a good way of making sure the people charged with going after these scammers know how to recognize the signals. What I'd really love to know, though, is how many people fell for the trick.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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