When a Times reporter recently received what appeared to be an "official order" in their e-mail account Inbox sent by FBI Director Robert Mueller III, it was immediately recognized as fraudulent and turned over to officials at the Clay County Sheriff's Department.
"People should use common sense about these types of things," Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times. "They should never give out any personal or banking information, and especially never send money, in response to these types of bogus e-mails."
Heaton said scammers may send out thousands of e-mails, which cost nothing to send, and if only one person falls for the scam then they have made a profit.
Chief Deputy Rob Gambill agrees, emphasizing everyone needs to remain vigilant for scammers' tricks.
"If you don't initiate the contact and/or you don't personally know the person you are speaking or corresponding with, you are setting yourself up to be scammed," Gambill said, adding he has dealt with scammers before. "I recently received a phone call from a company, supposedly in New Jersey, wanting to send my wife a product to try."
Gambill explained the telemarketer wanted credit card information to cover the shipping charge. When he refused and asked for the information to be sent to his home, the telemarketer said they couldn't. That's when Gambill said he "hung up on them."
However, it was later discovered federal officials are interested in e-mails fraudulently using fear tactics and federal agencies to get information from victims.
Brian Hale of the National Press Office of Public Affairs for the Federal Bureau of Investigation told The Brazil Times these e-mails are hoaxes and recipients are urged not to respond.
"If a person receives one of these e-mails, they need to report it to local authorities and the FBI's Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3) website," Hale said. "The FBI does not send out personal e-mails to people regarding such matters."
According to information provided by the FBI, many types of spam e-mails currently in circulation claim to come from the FBI's non-existent Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division or from an alleged FBI unit in Nigeria.
"Unfortunately these types of scams do not seem to be going away any time soon," Special Agent Richard Kolko, Chief, National Press Office, Washington, D.C. wrote in a press release. "They continue to cycle through the Internet using names of different government officials and agencies."
The e-mail letters allegedly confirm a person has an inheritance of millions of dollars, contain a lottery notification or inform recipients they have had a large sum of money transferred into a banking account in their name (which is like the one received at The Brazil Times).
Another form of the spam e-mails allegedly sent from IC3, states the recipient's identity has been or is currently involved in extorting money and will be given a limited amount of time to refund the money or face prosecution.
"FBI executives are briefed on numerous investigations involving these types of e-mails," Hale said. "Consumers should not respond to any unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links associated with these types of e-mails."
These types of emails, according to officials, could contain viruses or malware.
According to the IC3 website (www.ic3.gov), it is imperative consumers guard their personally identifiable information (PII), because providing it to spammers could potentially compromise a person's identity.
"Scammers will continue to seek new ways to gain an advantage so they can steal your money or personal information," Kolko said, adding a tip for consumers to consider. "Just don't respond."
For more information on e-scams, visit the FBI's New E-Scams and Warnings webpage or www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.