FBI Scam Alert: Phony Emails and Bogus Payday Loan Calls

Phony phone calls scamsThe Internet Crime Complaint Center's latest scam alert includes a bogus advance-fee email purportedly sent by the director of the FBI as well as harassing payday loan calls from scammers claiming to represent the IC3.

Alerts by the IC3, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), reflect recent cyber-crime trends and new takes on existing scams. Recent alerts have included warnings about virus-laden Osama Bin Laden spam and a reshipping scam designed to hijack your personal information.The latest alert contains several threats. Here's a summary of two of them:

Email Promises Huge Winnings and Threatens Arrest by FBI

The IC3 says it's received a number of complaints about spam email that purports to be from the FBI. Although the letter has the look and feel of a typical Nigerian 419 scam, it does go the extra mile by including the FBI seal and the log [WHAT'S "the log"? I DON'T KNOW THAT TERM.]of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in an attempt to confer legitimacy and fool fence-sitters.

The letter instructs recipients to contact the EFCC in Lagos, Nigeria, to obtain "clearance documents" and asks the recipient to provide their full name, address and telephone/cell number. Recipients are also told to send $250 for issuing the bogus clearance document, after which they stand to collect a non-existent $1.5 million.

The letter also attempts to intimidate recipients into replying by threatening a visit from federal agents, claiming FBI Director Robert Mueller "will have an agent come visit you at home for questioning" if they fail to contact the EFCC immediately.

The scam concludes by ratcheting up the pressure on victims, stating that "failure to provide the above requirement in the next 24 hours, legal action will be taken immediately by arresting and detaining you."

The phony letter was signed, "Faithfully Yours, Robert S. Mueller III, FBI Director," and it cc's various agencies including the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. District and Circuit Courts.

The IC3 warns consumers that social engineering techniques that exploit official government agencies help fraudsters intimidate, impress, and convince recipients the emails are above board.

Several Public Service Announcements (PSA) have been posted on the www.fbi.gov, www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com, and www.ic3.gov websites related to these types of schemes.

Threatening Calls From Scammers Impersonating Representatives of the IC3

The IC3 regularly receives scads of complaints relating to payday loan scams, but recent complaints include those from consumers who say they've been contacted by con artists claiming be with the IC3.

The callers, who one consumer said are "very nasty and could barely speak English," tell victims a complaint had been filed against them for an unpaid payday loan. The amount of the loans average $600, and the scammers attempt to bully victims into paying the phony loans immediately -- or face a court appearance and jail time.

Other complainants said the callers claimed to be from the attorney general's office and informed them they were being sued by the IC3 and a private detective for not repaying a payday loan.

Ominously, in both scenarios, the fraudsters had managed to obtain the victim's Social Security number and bank account information. Some recipients, however, said the checking account number was incorrect.

Still other consumers told the IC3 they received calls from con artists claiming to be "officers" with the IC3. These so-called IC3 officers told victims they were under investigation and would be hauled into court. The callers were described as having Indian accents, called the recipients multiple times, and used different names each time they called.
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