Imagine checking your inbox one morning and finding an apparently legitimate email summoning you to court. You’re understandably caught off guard, and more than a little worried. After all, the email appears to be legitimate, and the address even seems to have originated from a large law firm or your local court system. In fact, the email will even have a date and time listed that you’re supposed to appear in court.
You warily open it, and after reading through its contents, it instructs you to download an attachment that contains detailed information about your case. What you don’t realize however, is that as soon as you click “download,” you’ll be infecting your computer with malware. According to one article, “The malware attached in the email strike was identified as Kuluoz/Dofoil, which reportedly subjects victims to having their passwords and files stolen and can turn a computer into a “botnet” machine that spreads viruses far and wide unbeknownst to its owner.”
According to authorities, these notices to appear to be arbitrarily sent, with no discernable pattern; to affect residents from a wide variety of states, and to originate from both state and federal courts—and even from some high profile law firms. However, according to this news release, the content of the email will typically contain the following general wording:
Notice to Appear,
Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing that will take place in the court of [court name] on at [some time] .
Please bring all documents and witnesses relating to this case with you to court on your hearing date.
The copy of the court notice is attached to this letter. Please read it thoroughly.
Note: If you do not attend the hearing, the judge may hear the case in your absence and [some type of threat of action (Jail, fines, etc.)].
Clerk of the Court
What Can You Do if You’ve Received a Fake Court Email?
While the threat of fines or jail time can make your heart skip a beat, keep in mind that unless you already have a case pending or in progress, the court system will not contact you by email. Also, if you were to receive a legitimate email from the court with actual documents attached, they will never be in the form of an executable file (.exe).
With this in mind, if you find one of these fake court summons in your inbox, the first thing you need to remember is that it should not be opened. If you do mistakenly open it though, the good news is that there doesn’t appear to be an automatic download feature, which should keep your computer (and your private information) safe. However, make sure you don’t open any attachments or click on any links, which could compromise this safety.
Next, the US Court System recommends using their Court Locator to find the contact information for your specific area court, and then to let them know that you’ve received a scam email. Then, quickly delete it.
Finally, in order to prevent becoming a victim of other email scams, be sure to read the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s Email Scam Guide.
Have You Received a Fake Court Summons Email?
If so, share your experience with the world, while helping out your fellow consumers, by commenting below!