One of the great ironies of phishing is that, these days, identity theft via the web tends to work by preying on people’s fear of identity theft. It doesn’t help that most people don’t really understand the technology. The typical phishing message looks something like this:

Dear so-and-so. In order for us to protect your account from identity theft, we need you to give us all the critical information that we already have. Otherwise, your account will be locked.

These typically use actual bank logos and link to a website that imitates the bank’s real site as closely as possible. The days of “Pease entr yore acccccount infomation hear KTHXBYE” are long gone.

But the one I saw in the spamtraps today was just astonishing in its brazen use of buzzwords to add authenticity:

Dear Wilmington Trust Banking Member,

Due to the high number of fraud attempts and phishing scams, it has been decided to implement EV SSL Certification on this Internet Banking website.

First we have the scare tactic (always ironic in a “there are treacherous people about” sense). Throwing in EV SSL certificates makes it seem a bit more authoritative, since it’s something a lot of companies have started doing, and people may have heard about it in the news.

The use of EV SSL certification works with high security Web browsers to clearly identify whether the site belongs to the company or is another site imitating that company’s site.

It has been introduced to protect our clients against phishing and other online fraudulent activities. Since most Internet related crimes rely on false identity, WTDirect went through a rigorous validation process that meets the Extended Validation guidelines.

And here they talk about EV certs and how much safer they’ll make your account!

Please Update your account to the new EV SSL certification by Clicking here.

And here’s where they demonstrate that they figure the typical mark doesn’t actually have a clue what EV SSL certificates are. Various real businesses have converted from standard SSL to Extended Validation SSL, and the users didn’t have to do a thing.

Now, you might need to upgrade your web browser or switch to one that will show you a green bar (Firefox 3, IE7, Opera 9, etc.), but you’d still be able to access your account even if you didn’t. Unless the site started blocking other browsers like PayPal briefly discussed back in April. Even then, there would still be nothing that would require you to log into your account and make a change.

Anyway, let’s continue:

Please enter your User ID and Password and then click Go.

This one’s presumably a simple phish, just obtaining login credentials to give the thief access to the account through the web.

(Failure to verify account details correctly will lead to account suspension)

And of course the implied threat: Do this or you won’t be able to get at your money. Again, a typical phishing tactic.

On a side note: My favorite spam topic of the last week is “Refinance your ARM today.”. Yeah, I know what ARM stands for, but I keep imagining Cyborg, or perhaps the Six Million-Dollar Man, trying to refi a loan that covers the gadgets in his arm.

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