Internet scammers posing as Internet cops

Scam definition Thinkstock

Most people may not be familiar with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) but their ears are likely to perk when told it’s an operation sponsored by the FBI. And it’s the specter of being targeted by the FBI that makes this brazen email scam plausible.

From an IC3 press release:    

Victims report that the unsolicited e-mail sender is a representative of the IC3. The e-mails state that a criminal report was filed on the victim’s name and social security number and legal papers are pending. Scammers impersonate an IC3 employee to increase credibility and use threats of legal action to create a sense of urgency. Victims are informed they have one to two days from the date of the complaint to contact the scammers. Failure to respond to the e-mail will result in an arrest warrant issued to the victim.

Some victims stated they were provided further details regarding the ‘criminal charges’ to include violations of federal banking regulations, collateral check fraud, and theft deception. Other victims claimed that their address was correct but their social security number was incorrect. Victims that requested additional information from the scammer were instructed to obtain prepaid money cards to avoid legal action. Victims have reported this scam in multiple states.

The real IC3 notes that it never charges a fee for filing a complaint and never threatens to bring the legal hammer down on anyone who fails to respond to an email.

As for the scammers in this case? They may be playing with fire. The mission of the IC3 “is to receive Internet related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies for any investigation they deem to be appropriate.”

This one will be referred and investigated.

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