Friday, March 13, 2009

Jon Stewart performed a public service in gutting Jim Cramer

"As Stewart assumed the role of stern and angry prosecutor that he maintained through most of the 25 minute conversation, Cramer became more and more pathetic," says David Zurawik. "At one point, he tried to slow Stewart's assault by promising to be better in the future. But Stewart reminded him about how much damage had already been done to the economy, the country and citizens' lives by what Cramer blithely referred to as 'shenanigans' last night."
Watch the uncut interview

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's Housing Plan Creates Opening for Scammers

Borrowers Who Hire Firms to Renegotiate Mortgages Rarely Come Out Ahead


President Barack Obama's foreclosure-prevention plan, announced last week, is designed to give several million troubled borrowers another chance to lower their mortgage payments. But government officials and counseling agencies warn that it also presents a golden opportunity for firms to fleece unsuspecting borrowers.

Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of firms that charge fees for what they promise will be quick results in negotiating with banks to get easier loan terms. In many cases, the firms take the homeowner's money but never deliver the services promised. Even when the firms do deliver what they promise, they charge fees -- often more than $1,000 -- for services borrowers can receive free. In July, Congress increased to $360 million the funds it has allocated for foreclosure-prevention counseling to organizations that provide the service without charging consumers.

"Borrowers don't need to pay anybody," says William Apgar, a senior adviser to Shaun Donovan, President Obama's new secretary of housing and urban development. But Mr. Apgar and others fear that the recent headlines about the Obama housing plan will prompt more consumers to seek help in the wrong places.

Under the Obama plan, the government will offer incentives and subsidies to persuade mortgage-servicing companies to offer lower monthly payments to borrowers in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

The publicity about the plan could be "the greatest advertisement of all for these scamsters," says John Ryan, an executive vice president of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, which helps coordinate bank regulators. But he adds that his group is working with state and federal regulators to alert consumers and crack down on scams.
Home Truths

The Federal Reserve recently issued advice for people seeking to modify their mortgage:

* Work only with HUD-approved nonprofit counselors. (See
* Don't agree to pay a fee before you are provided with the promised service.
* Beware of people offering "guaranteed" results.
* Don't sign blank forms or documents you haven't read.

In the meantime, fee-charging loan-modification firms "are popping up everywhere," says John Snyder, a manager at NeighborWorks, a nonprofit group formed by Congress to support community-revitalization organizations. In California alone, the state Department of Real Estate has reviewed fee-agreement forms submitted by nearly 300 firms touting loan-modification or similar services and has posted them on its Web site. (The department says it doesn't endorse the firms or their services.) Cable-television stations also have been running ads for services that charge fees, many designed to look as if they come from government agencies or other trusted entities.

Consider the case of Marilyn Elias, a retired medical-records manager in Tempe, Ariz. Last September, when she was exploring ways to reduce her mortgage payments, Ms. Elias's son told her about a company called GSA Mortgage in Phoenix that he thought might be able to help her. She says she paid upfront fees totaling $1,455. "All they did was take my money," says Ms. Elias, a widow. "They haven't done one thing."

In addition, she says, an employee of the firm advised her to skip payments on her mortgage while waiting for a loan modification. That, she says, caused her credit score to plunge, even though she has since caught up with the payments. GSA Mortgage didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Wendy Brooks, a mortgage broker for Scout Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz., is trying to help Ms. Elias get a loan modification from the company that sends out her monthly mortgage bill, Aurora Loan Services. Ms. Brooks says she won't charge Ms. Elias anything for that help. A spokeswoman for Aurora declined to comment on Ms. Elias's loan.

Jeff Pasquale, an aircraft technician who lives in Lancaster, Calif., says he first tried to deal directly with his mortgage lender, Wells Fargo & Co., to negotiate lower payments. "I tried to handle it myself, and they started jamming me around," he says. He says he didn't seek a free HUD-approved counselor because a colleague had tried that without success.

Instead, Mr. Pasquale says he paid $1,100 about a month ago to a firm called U.S. Loan Assistance Center in Orange, Calif., which he found on the Internet. He says he believes the firm will deliver on its promises and is awaiting the results.

Eric Dena, processing manager at U.S. Loan Assistance Center, says Mr. Pasquale's payment is being held in a trust account until the firm's work is completed. He said his firm works faster than nonprofit counselors.

A spokeswoman for Wells said she couldn't discuss the specifics of Mr. Pasquale's situation, but added: "Wells Fargo encourages borrowers to work with us directly or a nonprofit housing counselor. We see no advantage to hiring third-party companies."

Borrowers are tempted by these firms partly because banks often don't have enough trained staff to cope with all of the calls they get from desperate homeowners and because nonprofit counselors don't always provide good service, says Jack Guttentag, a professor of finance emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He operates a Web site that offers free mortgage information called

In theory, Mr. Guttentag says, it might make sense for some people to pay a modest fee for help in negotiating with banks. But he has found no way to determine which of the fee-charging firms are legitimate. Mr. Guttentag suggests that borrowers first try calling their loan servicers for help. If that doesn't work, he says, borrowers can try to get a free, government-approved counselor. One way to find those is to call the mortgage industry's "Hope Hotline" at 888-995-4673 or click on

Firms that charge big fees for helping with loan modifications are just the latest potential trap for people facing foreclosure. In recent years, many distressed borrowers have fallen for "foreclosure rescue" schemes in which firms or individuals promise to help them avoid foreclosure through arrangements that involve transferring the title of their home to the supposed rescuers.

Rather than solving the problem, the deals typically resulted in the rescuer stripping the remaining equity in the home. As many of today's troubled borrowers have little or no equity remaining in their homes, fee-based loan-modification schemes have eclipsed foreclosure-rescue ones, says Mark Kaufman, Maryland's deputy commissioner of financial regulation.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission have published warnings about what they call "foreclosure scams." State attorneys general also are issuing warnings and in some cases prosecuting firms alleged to have cheated borrowers. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, has introduced legislation that would bar "foreclosure consultants" from collecting fees before they complete promised services. Some states, including California, Maryland, Iowa and Florida, already have laws with restrictions on upfront fees for these services.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Madoff Aide Allegedly Got Fake 'Tickets' of Trading

* MARCH 9, 2009

Madoff Aide Allegedly Got Fake 'Tickets' of Trading


A longtime aide to disgraced financier Bernard Madoff instructed two assistants to generate trading tickets, now believed to be bogus, for Mr. Madoff's investing clients, according to information the assistants gave the government in the investigation.

The assistants told prosecutors that their supervisor, Annette Bongiorno, a four-decade veteran of the Madoff firm, would ask them to research daily share prices for blue-chip stocks from the previous month or several months, according to a person familiar with their statements.
[Bernard Madoff]

Bernard Madoff

Using the data of past share prices, Ms. Bongiorno would then instruct the assistants to generate "tickets" showing purported trades, which resulted in gains that were in line with Mr. Madoff's steady annual returns, this person said. Ms. Bongiorno couldn't be reached for comment.

The development comes as Mr. Madoff signaled last week that he will plead guilty to numerous crimes during a scheduled hearing in federal court on Thursday, people familiar with the case say. Mr. Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, declined to comment.

The charges against Mr. Madoff are expected to include securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering, according to one person familiar with the case. Mr. Madoff waived a grand-jury indictment and prosecutors will instead file a document called a criminal information to charge him.

The document is expected to be detailed and will lay out the story of how the alleged fraud was committed. It will shine a light on the alleged fraud back to the 1980s, though it actually may have started earlier, according to the person familiar with the case.

If Thursday's hearing goes as planned, prosecutors will be able to devote more time to other people who might have been involved in the alleged fraud. Though Mr. Madoff has told prosecutors he acted alone, his account is doubted by investigators, given the scope and the duration of the alleged fraud, according to several people familiar with the matter.

View Interactive

A look inside the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities offices in the Lipstick Building in Manhattan.

The two assistants to Ms. Bongiorno, Semone Anderson and Winnie Jackson, did clerical work and helped generate stock-trade confirmations for client accounts, which purported to show gains that were later applied to client accounts. The confirmations are now believed to have been fictitious, according to a court-appointed trustee who is liquidating the Madoff firm. Ms. Bongiorno, 60 years old, was once Mr. Madoff's personal secretary and later oversaw some of the firm's oldest accounts.

The two assistants were interviewed by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York through what are called proffer agreements, in which prosecutors agree not to use their statements against them as long as they tell the truth, according to people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors also have begun interviewing employees from a group that was separate from Ms. Bongiorno and oversaw accounts for many of Mr. Madoff's institutional accounts. That group was headed by Frank DiPascali Jr., 52, who hasn't yet been asked to speak with prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. DiPascali's lawyer declined to comment on his client's behalf.

Mr. DiPascali referred to himself as the "director of options trading" at the firm and Mr. Madoff told investors he executed trades, despite the fact that a court-appointed trustee found that no trading occurred for at least the past 13 years. Prosecutors have asked at least three employees who worked under Mr. DiPascali about his role in the firm, according to a person familiar with the matter. The employees, Eric Lipkin, JoAnn Crupi and Robert Cardile, who is Mr. DiPascali's brother-in-law, also had proffer agreements with prosecutors.

Prosecutors' approach so far has been typical of other large fraud investigations: begin with lower-level employees to find out what they knew about the work of their supervisor or other managers, then continue to climb up the ladder. Much of the alleged fraud is believed to have occurred on the 17th floor of the Manhattan high-rise where Mr. Madoff kept his offices. Many of the employees on that floor had little or no financial expertise and started working there at a very young age, according to several people familiar with the firm.

Prosecutors' strategy to start with lower-level employees is one explanation why higher-level employees and other Madoff relatives have yet to be interviewed by prosecutors. Authorities haven't interviewed Mr. Madoff's sons, Andrew or Mark Madoff since Dec. 11 after the two brought them information on Dec. 10 their father confessed to the scheme, touching off the current investigation. The sons helped run the market-making side of the Madoff firm, which was separate from its fraudulent investment operation.

The lawyer for Mark and Andrew Madoff said in a statement that the two "had no knowledge whatsoever of the fraud before their father informed them ... and they immediately reported the fraud to the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC."

It isn't known whether prosecutors have spoken to Mr. Madoff's brother, Peter, who was the firm's chief compliance officer or to Bernard Madoff's wife, Ruth, who is being looked at by prosecutors because she once had a role in overseeing the Madoff firm's bank accounts, according to a person familiar with the matter. A lawyer for Peter Madoff didn't return calls for comment. The lawyer has said in recent months that his client didn't know about the fraud. Mr. Sorkin, who represents Ruth Madoff, had no comment.

To be sure, such fact-gathering doesn't mean that prosecutors will determine there was any criminal liability. No employees of the Madoff firm have been accused of wrongdoing, save for Mr. Madoff.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New E-Scams & Warnings from the FBI


03/05/09—The FBI continues to receive reports of individuals victimized while attempting to purchase vehicles via the Internet. Victims find attractively priced vehicles advertised at different Internet classified ad sites. Most of the scams include some type of third-party vehicle protection program to ensure a safe transaction. After receiving convincing e-mails from the phony vehicle protection program, the victims are directed to send either the full payment, or a percentage of the payment, to the third-party agent via a wire payment service. No vehicles are delivered to the victims.

In a new twist, scammers are posing as members of the United States military. The fictitious military personnel in the scam have either been sent to a foreign country to improve military relations, or they need to sell a vehicle quickly and cheaply because of their upcoming deployment to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Consumers are advised to do as much due diligence as possible before engaging in transactions to purchase vehicles advertised online. Consumers are also cautioned to be aware of the rules of or warnings posted by the Internet sites they visit. If someone is asking you as a consumer to break or avoid the rules of the website, it is possible that person is trying to scam you.

If you have fallen victim to this type of scam, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at


02/04/09—Consumers need to be vigilant when seeking employment online. The IC3 continues to receive numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to work-at-home scams.

Victims are often hired to “process payments,” “transfer funds,” or “reship products.” These job scams involve the victims receiving and cashing fraudulent checks, transferring illegally obtained funds for the criminals, or receiving stolen merchandise and shipping it to the criminals.

Other victims sign up to be a “mystery shopper,” receiving fraudulent checks with instructions to cash the checks and wire the funds to “test” a company’s services. Victims are told they will be compensated with a portion of the merchandise or funds.

Work-at-home schemes attract otherwise innocent individuals, causing them to become part of criminal schemes without realizing they are engaging in illegal behavior.

Job scams often provide criminals the opportunity to commit identity theft when victims provide their personal information, sometimes even bank account information, to their potential “employer.” The criminal/employer can then use the victim’s information to open credit cards, post on-line auctions, register websites, etc., in the victim’s name to commit additional crimes.

If you have been a victim of Internet crime, please file a complaint at


12/11/08—Consumers continue to be inundated by spam purportedly from the FBI. As with previous spam attacks, the latest versions use the names of several high ranking executives within the FBI and even the IC3 to attempt to defraud consumers.

Many of the spam e-mails currently in circulation claim to be an “official order” from the FBI’s Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division, from an alleged FBI unit in Nigeria, confirm an inheritance, or contain a lottery notification, all informing recipients they have been named the beneficiary of millions of dollars. To claim the large sum, recipients are instructed to furnish their personally identifiable information (PII) and are often threatened with some type of penalty, such as prosecution, if they fail to do so. Specific PII information requested includes, but is not limited to, the recipient’s name, banking information, telephone number, and a copy of their passport.

The spam e-mail allegedly from the IC3 states that the recipient has extorted money and will be given a limited amount of time to refund the money or face prosecution.

Do not respond. These e-mails are a hoax.

The FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails of this nature. FBI executives are briefed on numerous investigations but do not personally contact consumers regarding such matters. In addition, the IC3 does not send threatening letters to consumers demanding payments for Internet crimes.

Consumers should not respond to any unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links associated with such e-mails, as they may contain viruses or malware.

It is imperative consumers guard their PII. Providing your PII will compromise your identity.

If you have been a victim of Internet crime, please file a complaint at


12/09/08—The FBI has received information concerning a new technique used to conduct vishing (1) attacks. The recent attacks were conducted by hackers exploiting a security vulnerability in Asterisk software. Asterisk is free and widely used software developed to integrate PBX (2) systems with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) digital Internet voice calling services; however, early versions of the Asterisk software are known to have a vulnerability. The vulnerability can be exploited by cyber criminals to use the system as an auto dialer, generating thousands of vishing telephone calls to consumers within one hour.

The vulnerability referred to in this alert is a known vulnerability. Digium, the original creator and primary developer of Asterisk, released a Security Advisory, AST-2008-003, in March of 2008, which contains the information necessary for users to configure a system, patch the software, or upgrade the software to protect against this vulnerability.

If a consumer falls victim to this exploit, their personally identifiable information (PII) will be compromised. To prevent further loss of consumers’ PII and to reduce the spread of this new technique, it is imperative that businesses using Asterisk upgrade their software to a version that has had the vulnerability fixed.

Further, consumers should not release personal information in response to unsolicited telephone calls. Providing your PII will compromise your identity!

If you have been a victim of Internet crime, please file a complaint at

(1) Vishing utilizes caller ID spoofing via VoIP to contact potential victims in order to gain access to their PII by convincing the victim that the criminal is associated with a legitimate business with a need to know the victim’s PII.

(2) PBX Systems are used by companies to allow telephone calls between VoIP enterprise users on local lines while allowing all users to share a limited number of external lines


10/16/08—A spam e-mail claiming to be from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole is currently being circulated. This attempt to defraud is the typical e-mail scam using the name and reputation of an FBI official to create an air of authenticity.

As with many scams, the e-mail advises the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a large sum of money which they will be permitted to access once fees are paid and personal banking information is provided. The appearance of the e-mail leads the reader to believe that it is from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole.

This e-mail is a hoax. Do not respond.

The IC3 continues to receive and develop intelligence regarding fraud schemes misrepresenting the FBI and/or FBI officials. The scam e-mails give the appearance of legitimacy through the use of pictures of FBI officials, seal, letterhead, and/or banners.

These fraud schemes claim to be from domestic as well as international FBI offices. The typical types of schemes utilizing the names of FBI officials and/or the FBI are lottery endorsements and inheritance notifications, but can cover a range of scams from threats and malicious computer program attachments (malware) to online auction scams.

These scams use the social engineering technique of employing the FBI's name to intimidate and convince the recipient the e-mail is legitimate.

Please be cautious of any unsolicited e-mail referencing the FBI, Director Mueller, Deputy Director Pistole, or any other FBI official claiming that the FBI is endorsing any type of Internet activity.

Always be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through unsolicited e-mail:

* Guard your personal information and your account information carefully.
* You should never give any personal, credit, or banking information in response
to unsolicited e-mails.

If you have received this e-mail, or a similar e-mail, please file a complaint at


08/28/08—The IC3 continues to receive thousands of reports concerning the hit man e-mail scheme. The e-mail content has evolved since late 2006; however, the messages remain similar in nature, claiming the sender has been hired to kill the recipient.

Two new versions of the scheme began appearing in July 2008. One instructed the recipient to contact a telephone number contained in the e-mail and the other claimed the recipient or a “loved one” was going to be kidnapped unless a ransom was paid. Recipients of the kidnapping threat were told to respond via e-mail within 48 hours. The sender was to provide the location of the wire transfer five minutes before the deadline and was threatened with bodily harm if the ransom was not received within 30 minutes of the time frame given. The recipients’ personally identifiable information (PII) was included in the e-mail to promote the appearance that the sender actually knew the recipient and their location.

Perpetrators of Internet crimes often use fictitious names, addresses, telephone numbers, and threats or warnings regarding the failure to comply to further their schemes.

In some instances, the use of names, titles, addresses, and telephone numbers of government officials and business executives, and/or the victims’ PII are used in an attempt to make the fraud appear more authentic.

Below are links for the two previous public service announcements published by the IC3 concerning the hit man scheme:


Consumers always need to be alert to unsolicited e-mails. Do not open unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links, as they may contain viruses or malware. Providing your PII will compromise your identity!

Individuals who receive e-mails containing threats of violence and their PII are encouraged to contact law enforcement as well as file a complaint at

07/30/08—Be on the lookout for spam e-mail spreading malicious software (malware) which mentions “F.B.I. vs. facebook.” The e-mail directs the recipient to click on a link to view an article about the FBI and Facebook. Once the user clicks on the link, the “Storm Worm”malware is downloaded to the Internet-connected device, causing it to become infected with the virus and part of the Storm Worm botnet. A botnet is a network of compromised machines under the control of a single user. Botnets are typically set up to facilitate criminal activity such as spam e-mail, identity theft, denial of service attacks, and spreading malware to other machines on the Internet.

The Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays and fictitious world events in the last year by sending millions of e-mails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam e-mail.

Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided.

If you have received this, or a similar e-mail, please file a complaint at


07/08/08—Since late May and early June 2008, there have been several natural disasters throughout the country—including tornadoes, wildfires, and floods—that have devastated lives and property. In the wake of these events, which cause emotional distress and great financial loss to numerous victims, individuals across the nation often feel a desire to help, frequently through monetary donations.

Tragic incidents such as 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the recent earthquake in China have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or a good cause. Therefore, before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, to include the following:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.
Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization's website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.
Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

To obtain more information on charitable contribution schemes and other types of online schemes, visit If you are a victim of an online scheme, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at


06/13/08—The IC3 has received reports of phishing attacks targeting users of EPPICards. The EPPICard is similar to a debit card. EPPICards are issued by a state agency for the purpose of receiving child-support payments. The cards are currently used in 15 states.

Individuals have reported receiving e-mail or text messages indicating a problem with their account. They are directed to follow the link provided in the message to update their account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individuals to a fraudulent web site where their personal information, such as account number and PIN, is compromised.

Individuals have also reported receiving an e-mail message asking them to complete an online survey. At the end of the survey, they are asked for their EPPICard account information to allow funds to be credited to the account in appreciation for completing the survey. Providing this information will allow criminals to compromise the account.

EPPICard providers indicate they are not affiliated with survey web sites and do not solicit personal information via email or text messages.

Please be cautious of unsolicited e-mails. Do not open e-mails from unknown senders because they often contain viruses or other malicious software. Also, avoid clicking links in e-mails received from unknown senders as this is a popular method of directing victims to phishing websites.

If you have received an e-mail similar to this, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at


06/06/08—Consumers need to be aware of e-mail schemes containing various versions of fraudulent refund notifications purportedly from the IC3 and the government of the United Kingdom. The e-mails claim the refunds are being made to compensate the recipients for their losses as victims of Internet fraud.

The perpetrators of this fraud use the names of people not associated with the IC3 but give them titles in an attempt to make the e-mails appear official. The perpetrators use the IC3’s logo and the former name of the IC3, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), as well as the names of the Bank of England and the Metropolitan Police in the e-mails.

The e-mails promise refunds of thousands of dollars which are to be sent via bank wire transfer from the “bank of England” once the victim signs a “fund release order.” The e-mails contain warnings that failure to sign the order will place the funds on hold and a penalty will be applied.

As with most spam, the content contains elements which are evidence of fraud such as: multiple spelling errors, poor grammar, agency names, signatures of officials and titles to appear authentic, and a warning for failure to comply. In some of the e-mails, the names of the officials do not match the signatures.

Consumers always need to be alert when they receive an unsolicited e-mail. Remember: do not open unsolicited e-mail or click on any links embedded in the e-mail, as they may contain a virus or malware.

If you have received an e-mail similar to this, please file a complaint at

05/08/08—The FBI warns consumers of recently reported spam e-mail purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which is actually an attempt to steal consumer information. The e-mail advises the recipient that direct deposit is the fastest and easiest way to receive their economic stimulus tax rebate. The message contains a hyperlink to a fraudulent form which requests the recipient's personally identifiable information, including bank account information. To convince consumers to reply, the e-mail warns that a failure to complete the form in a timely manner will delay the issuance of the rebate check.

One example of this IRS spam e-mail message is as follows:

"Over 130 million Americans will receive refunds as part of President Bush's program to jumpstart the economy.

Our records indicate that you are qualified to receive the 2008 Economic Stimulus Refund.

The fastest and easiest way to receive your refund is by direct deposit to your checking/savings account.

Please follow the link and fill out the form and submit before May 10th, 2008 to ensure that your refund will be processed as soon as possible.

Submitting your form on May 10th, 2008 or later means that your refund will be delayed due to the volume of requests we anticipate for the Economic Stimulus Refund.

To access Economic Stimulus refund, please click here."

Consumers are advised that the IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications via e-mail. In addition, the IRS does not request detailed personal information via e-mail or ask taxpayers for the PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank, or other financial accounts.

Please be cautious of unsolicited e-mails. It is recommended not to open e-mails from unknown senders because they often contain viruses or other malicious software. It is also recommended to avoid clicking links in e-mails received from unknown senders as this is a popular method of directing victims to phishing websites.

If you have received an e-mail similar to this, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at

04/17/08—The IC3 warns consumers of recently reported spam e-mail containing a fraudulent subpoena notifying recipients they are commanded to appear and testify before a Grand Jury. The e-mail attempts to appear authentic by containing a court case number, federal code, name and address of a California federal court, court room number, issuing officers’ names, and a court seal. Recipients are directed to click the link provided in the e-mail in order to download and print associated information for their records. If the recipient clicks the link, malicious code is downloaded onto their computer.

The e-mail also contains language threatening recipients with contempt of court charges if they fail to appear. Recipients are also told the subpoena will remain in effect until the court grants a release. As with most spam, the content contains multiple spelling errors.

If you receive this type of notification and are unsure of its authenticity, you should contact the issuing court for validation.

Be aware; if you receive an unsolicited e-mail, especially from an unknown sender, it is recommended you do not open it. If you do open the e-mail, do not click any embedded links, as they may contain a virus or malware.

If you have received an e-mail similar to this, please file a complaint at

02/11/08—With the Valentine's Day holiday approaching, be on the lookout for spam e-mails spreading the Storm Worm malicious software (malware). The e-mail directs the recipient to click on a link to retrieve the electronic greeting card (e-card). Once the user clicks on the link, malware is downloaded to the Internet-connected device and causes it to become infected and part of the Storm Worm botnet. A botnet is a network of compromised machines under the control of a single user. Botnets are typically set up to facilitate criminal activity such as spam e-mail, identity theft, denial of service attacks, and spreading malware to other machines on the Internet.

The Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays in the last year by sending millions of e-mails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam e-mail. Valentine's Day has been identified as the next target.

Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided.

If you have received this, or a similar e-mail, please file a complaint at

02/01/08—The FBI has recently developed information indicating cyber criminals are attempting to once again send fraudulent e-mails to unsuspecting recipients stating that someone has filed a complaint against them or their company with the Department of Justice or another organization such as the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, or the Better Business Bureau.

Information obtained during the FBI investigation has been provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS has taken steps to alert their public and private sector partners with the release of a Critical Infrastructure Information Notice (CIIN).

The e-mails are intended to appear as legitimate messages from the above departments, and they address the recipients by name, and other personal information may be contained within the e-mail. Consistent with previous efforts, the scam will likely be an effort to secure Personally Identifiable Information. The nature of these types of scams is to create a sense of urgency for the recipient to provide a response through clicking on a hyperlink, opening an attachment, or initiating a telephone call.

It is believed this e-mail refers to a complaint that is in the form of an attachment, which actually contains virus software designed to steal passwords from the recipient. The virus is wrapped in a screensaver file wherein most anti-virus programs are unable to detect its malicious intent. Once downloaded, the virus is designed to monitor username and password logins, and record the activity, as well as other password-type information, entered on the compromised machine.

Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided. If you have received a scam e-mail please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at

01/17/08—Are you one of many who have received an e-mail, text message, or telephone call, supposedly from your credit card/debit card company directing you to contact a telephone number to re-activate your card due to a security issue? The IC3 has received multiple reports of different variations of this scheme known as "vishing". These attacks against US financial institutions and consumers continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Vishing operates like phishing by persuading consumers to divulge their Personally Identifiable Information (PII), claiming their account was suspended, deactivated, or terminated. Recipients are directed to contact their bank via a telephone number provided in the e-mail or by an automated recording. Upon calling the telephone number, the recipient is greeted with "Welcome to the bank of ……" and then requested to enter their card number in order to resolve a pending security issue.

For authenticity, some fraudulent e-mails claim the bank would never contact customers to obtain their PII by any means, including e-mail, mail, or instant messenger. These e-mails further warn recipients not to provide sensitive information when requested in an e-mail and not to click on embedded links, claiming they could contain "malicious software aimed at capturing login credentials."

Please beware—spam e-mails may actually contain malicious code (malware) which can harm your computer. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided.

A new version recently reported involves the sending of text messages to cell phones claiming the recipient's on-line bank account has expired. The message instructs the recipient to renew their on-line bank account by using the link provided.

Due to rapidly evolving criminal methodologies, it is impossible to include every scenario. Therefore, be cognizant and protect your PII. Beware of e-mails, telephone calls, or text messages requesting your PII.

If you have a question concerning your account or credit/debit card, you should contact your bank using a telephone number obtained independently, such as from your statement, a telephone book, or other independent means.

If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at


01/04/08—We have increasingly received reports of fraudulent schemes misrepresenting FBI agents, officials, and/or FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. The fraudulent e-mails give the appearance of legitimacy due to the usage of pictures of the FBI Director, seal, letterhead, and/or banners. The e-mails may also claim to come from our domestic or overseas offices.

The types of schemes utilizing the names of FBI agents, officials, or the Director’s name are typically lottery endorsements and inheritance notifications. However, other fraudulent schemes include threat and extortion e-mails, website monitoring containing malicious computer program attachments (malware), and online auction scams.

The social engineering technique of utilizing the FBI’s name is to intimidate and convince the recipient the e-mail is legitimate.

The FBI does not send out emails soliciting information from citizens.

Please be cautious of any unsolicited e-mail referencing the FBI, FBI Director Mueller, or any other FBI official endorsing any type of Internet activity.

If you have experienced this situation please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at

01/09/07—There is a new twist to the IC3 alert posted on December 7, 2006 regarding e-mails claiming that the sender has been paid to kill the recipient and will cancel the contract on the recipient's life if that person pays a large sum of money. Now e-mails are surfacing that claim to be from the FBI in London. These e-mails note the following information:

* An individual was recently arrested for the murders of several United States and United Kingdom citizens in relation to this matter.
* The recipient's information was found on the subject identifying the recipient as the next victim.
* The recipient is requested to contact the FBI in London to assist with the investigation.

It is not uncommon for an Internet fraud scheme to have the same overall intent but be transmitted containing variations in the e-mail content, e.g., different names, e-mail addresses, and/or agencies reportedly involved. See our related top story on the hitman scam.

Please note, providing any personal information in response to an unsolicited e-mail can compromise your identity and open you to identity theft.

If you have experienced this situation please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at

Due to the threat of violence inherent in these extortion e-mails, if you receive an e-mail that contains personally identifiable information that might differentiate your e-mail from the general e-mail spam campaign, we encourage you to contact the police.

12/07/06—We have recently received information concerning spam e-mails threatening to assassinate the recipient unless the individual pays several thousand dollars to the sender of the e-mail.

The subject claims to have been following the victim for some time and was supposedly hired to kill the victim by a friend of the victim. The subject threatens to carry out the assassination if the victim goes to the police and requests the victim to respond quickly and provide their telephone number.

Warning! Providing any personal information can compromise your identify and open you to identity theft.

If you have experienced this situation, please notify your local, state, or federal law enforcement agency immediately. Also, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at