Reports of "Emergency Scam" targeting elected officials - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Reports of "Emergency Scam" targeting elected officials

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - E-mail scammers are "hijacking" email addresses of well known public officials and using it to con consumers, warns Attorney General Jim Hood. The Attorney General first issued a warning about the scam this past July.

"It's not a new scam, but of course these con artists continually tweak their techniques in order to fool even the most astute consumers," said Attorney General Hood. "In several recent reports, the cons have spoofed the email addresses of some of Mississippi's elected officials who reported the crime to our office. We are looking into these specific instances, but our immediate best reaction is to warn consumers that it is going on and urge them to be cautious."

In the recent reports, the spam email claims that the public official is overseas and is in need of money because the official has lost his through some sort of accident. The recipient is then instructed to immediately send money to Western Union in London.

"We are looking into it, but we do know that somehow these criminals have also accessed the official's email address book, so the victims don't necessarily consider it out of the ordinary to be receiving email correspondence from the official," said Attorney General Hood.

The scam, in its traditional form is known as the "emergency scam" because the criminal always trys to use the scare of an emergency situation to force the victim to respond quickly.

It has also developed the nickname of the "grandparent scam" as the cons often target grandparents while pretending to be their grandchild in the middle of a crisis, perhaps a car accident or needing bail money. The grandparent is told to act quickly and to keep the correspondence a secret.

"Everyone should look with suspicion at any unsolicited emails that seek to play on your emotions and your pocketbook," said Attorney General Hood. "Always protect your personal information and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date."

Some key tips to remember:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited e-mails of this nature.
  • Do not click on any attachments associated with such emails, as they may contain viruses or malware.
  • Educate yourself and your family on how the scam works.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly and wants you to wire money, especially out of the country. 
  • Typically, the scammer will tell you to keep the conversation a secret. Know that the right thing to do is to call someone else in the family to verify the situation.
  • Consider creating a "code word" or a "password" for your family to use in emergency situations as verification of identity and do not tell it to anyone outside of the family.
  • Always protect your PII (Personally Identifiable Information). Giving it out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.

More information on this scam, and others like it, can be found online at www.agjimhood.com.

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