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Fraudsters have begun experimenting with introducing IM chats to phishing attacks.

Conmen are trialling the inclusion of IM features into fraudulent e-banking websites. The tactic is designed to trick prospective marks into handing over the answers to secret security questions, thereby giving cybercrims an increased ability to loot compromised accounts.

The so-called "chat-in-the-middle" fraud tactic was discovered by security researchers at RSA in one isolated case involving a US bank, suggesting it's currently at the prototype stage.

RSA explains that fraudsters pose as a representative of a targeted bank’s fraud department during a Live Chat session designed to trick the unwary into disclosing their names, address, phone number and other sensitive information.

Dancho Danchev, an independent security consultant and cyber threats analyst, suggests the service might be combined with multilingual on demand social engineering over the phone services available in underground cybercrime forums for around $9 a call.

The value of a compromised online banking account varies widely, but a recent edition of Symantec's Internet Threat Report suggests that compromised online bank credentials can sell for as much as $1,000, making the investment and trouble of establishing an elaborate polyglot cybercrime call centre potentially worthwhile.

If nothing else, the "Chat-in-the-Middle" approach illustrates once again that cybercrime tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with tech-savvy fraudsters quick to apply the business practices of legitimate organisations to their own illicit activities. ®

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