back to article Ignore that FBI. We're the real FBI, says the FBI that's totally the FBI

Some scammers may have bitten off more than they can chew after they tried impersonating the FBI to spread malware. The Feds' Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued an alert on Wednesday warning that it has received numerous complaints from citizens who have received emails purporting to be from IC3. Each message states …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Expect arrests.

    I'd love for them to arrest the bastards and make a very public show about what happens when crims pretend to be the feds, but I also recall receiving this very official-looking e-mail from fbi@reallywerewiththegovernmenttrustusonthat.notnigeriaweswear.com first time years ago...

    I guess some never learn, or it is a new generation kind of thing? It's been months since Mariam Abacha last wrote me!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Expect arrests.

      It's been months since Mariam Abacha last wrote me!

      That's because she's been talking with me these last few weeks. She no longer likes you.

      Hurray! I've got a female friend. I'm not a total loser after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Expect arrests.

        The two-timing bitch.

        She told me I was her ever lover.

      2. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Trollface

        March The Guilty Bastards In...

        ...it's time for their 'fair' trial.

  2. Shadow Systems

    Ignore them.

    All it takes is one look at the email headers to find out that it didn't really come from whom it claims to be from. A foreign based ISP is a good tip off as are Gmail, Hotmail, or anything sent from an iPhone.

    Just ignore it all & dispose of it without opening it. Unless you print it out & use it as bog paper.

    1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Ignore them.

      "... look at the email headers to find out that it didn't really come from whom it claims to be from. A foreign based ISP is a good tip off as are Gmail, Hotmail, or anything sent from an iPhone ..."

      Yes, you're right, that's probably from the real FBI, but I would still delete it just in case.

      It's the trench coat and straw boater.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Ignore them.

      @shadowsystems

      All very good advice. But here on El Reg you've pretty much defined "mansplaining" ( at least in its most recent -non-gender specific form, which does seem to be how its morphing).

      The problem is that outside the world of the techie-minded are the millions of ordinary users, some elderly and/or respectful of authority. And they trust the FBI, but haven't cottoned on to the reality that on the internet you can't trust anyone to be who they claim. In the real world few individuals go around pretending to be FBI/MI5//Interpol or whatever. When they do it's big news and even gets made into feature films ("movies") sometimes. In the internet it's very different. We know that. But not everyone out there realises.

      1. Shadow Systems

        At Terry 6...

        I had to look up that term to figure out what you were talking about. I am sorry & whole heartedly appollogize for coming across as condescending. That was not my intent.

        A better version of what I wanted to say would be: delete the email & go on with your day.

      2. mutin

        Re: Ignore them.

        After twenty years of such spam history people still click ... The most of US population knows that FBI either sends a letter, or calls, or knocking in the door ... Never sends emails. That is applicable to other US government agencies. I would name such "clicking" as "statistically existing ignorance". Very likely will exist forever to feed various malicious activity.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Ignore them.

      Most users would not know how to read an email header so telling them to look at the header without very specific instructions is a fool's errand. To most, trying to follow a header is like trying to read Etruscan.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        Exactly. For some reason, many email clients and almost all on-line email services started to hide the header. Reading headers has become a lost art form.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        To most, trying to follow a header is like trying to read Etruscan.

        Etruscan isn't actually that difficult to pick up, if you've ever studied Latin. I don't know what proportion of children ever study Latin but it's still taught in about a thousand secondary schools; it's even offered in some primary schools now.

        Sorry. Complete aside. I agree with your point.

      3. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        Most users would not know how to read an email header

        Or are using a client that makes it nigh-on impossible to get at the headers in the first place. Still haven't worked out how to do it in Outlook at work...

        M.

        1. Shadow Systems

          At Martin an gof, re: Outlook headers.

          In Outlook 2010 the command is Alt, F, I, V. This brings up the headers bit about half the time. The other half lands me in printers for some damned reason.

          I have no idea about other/newer versions of Outlook, but give that shortcut a try. YMMV.

          Hope that helps! Now go enjoy a pint on me, it's Beer O'Clock on Friday so "accidently" unplug the computer & meet me in the pub! =-D

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: At Martin an gof, re: Outlook headers.

            In Outlook 2010 the command is Alt, F, I, V.

            Blimey, so it is, or File... Info... Properties (never would have guessed "v" for "properties").

            Any similar hints for Outlook Web Access?

            ;-)

            As for the beer... 'fraid I'm working the weekend.

            M.

            1. Shadow Systems

              Re: At Martin an gof, re: Outlook headers.

              Sorry, I have no experience with the web based client. I'm using the stand alone version as it provides the best support for my screen reader.

              As for not having a beer, you have my condolences for having to work the weekend. I'll leave a Tenner with the publican to pay for your next round, so enjoy it once you can. =-)

    4. JohnFen

      Re: Ignore them.

      True. Although in the case of law enforcement, you don't even have to look at the email header. Basic knowledge of how law enforcement actually works makes it patently clear that those emails are phony.

      As always, and as I once had to explain to a terrified relative, if you get unsolicited official email from any entity such as law enforcement, banks, etc., call them up directly and ask about it before you even think about opening the attachment. And look up their phone number yourself, don't trust any that might be in the email.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        "Basic knowledge of how law enforcement actually works" is probably in just as short supply as knowledge of how to read an email header, so that doesn't really seem to get us much further.

        I received an email "from" my bank the other day, saying that someone had tried to log on to my account and I should log on and check for any suspicious activity, just click here. Except I knew it wasn't from my bank, because - for precisely this reason - I've never given them my email address. Of course I also know that even if I had, they wouldn't have sent me an email like that, and even if they did, I wouldn't click any link I found in it, and even if I was tempted to do so, I should use a quarantined browser and check the domain of the linked site before typing anything into it. So I had many layers of defence against that phish. But not everyone would. The more tools you can give people, the more likely it is that they'll find one they can actually use.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ignore them.

        "Basic knowledge of how law enforcement actually works makes it patently clear that those emails are phony."

        My dad tells the story of a police officer trying to explain how stupid the IRS "you owe us money" phone scam is. (Scammer calls you up, says they're the IRS, and if you don't pay at least a deposit of $___ on your back taxes RIGHT NOW they're going to come arrest you.) The officer said, "Do you think we call up a drug dealer and tell them not to go anywhere because we're heading over to arrest them?"

        Besides, it's impossible to get the IRS on the phone in any other situation - so how likely is it that THEY would call YOU?

        (AC to ever-so-slightly decrease the chances of getting picked up because of that last line...)

    5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Ignore them.

      Bog paper - what constitutes a very good foundation for bog paper? Youse standard printerer paper is too shiny, hard and offers no grip, and have a very low adsorption rate.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        Blocks the loo, too.

      2. handleoclast
        Coat

        Re: Ignore them.

        Bog paper - what constitutes a very good foundation for bog paper?

        Gideons International provides emergency bog paper in (large) booklet form in hotels.

    6. Gordon Pryra

      Re: Ignore them.

      Except I am seeing emails from Virgin, talk talk and HSBC that I would SWEAR are fishing scams but I know to be legit.

      People on the register still make the mistake that real people understand anything about emails and are in a position to make any form of informed decisions regarding the validity of a mail.

      With real companies sending out mails with content which appears to be a scam, how is my mum going to stand a chance?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Ignore them.

        I've actually phoned my bank etc from time to time and complained about genuine "click here to see " type emails from them. The customer service people get it immediately. One had to restrain herself from swearing (AS in "Oh for fgoodness sake, yes what are they thinking?").

        But marketing people live on a different planet.

        1. Shadow Systems

          At Terry 6, re: marketing.

          Humans are from Earth, Marketing is still stuck in Uranus.

          I'll get my coat... =-)p

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        Re: Ignore them.

        @Gordon Pryra: Add almost any HR department to that list

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it is probing the con

    Is that allowed? Sounds like a "violation"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nigerian scanner

    "The email claims a Nigerian had been arrested by the FBI in Atlanta, USA"

    Maybe someone can create an email spam/malware filter that would flag any emails with the word "Nigerian" in it.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Nigerian scanner

      That would have flagged this story, and (separately) your comment on it.

      1. Mongrel
        Big Brother

        Re: Nigerian scanner

        It'd be Scunthorpe all over again

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’m opposed to Waterboarding... but maybe just this once it’s OK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:waterboarding

      Does it count if it's only used to test whether water boarding should be used on terrorists or other serious criminals?

      I'm suggesting this purely for research purposes and if it turns out to be a truly horrendous torture after years of testing on said hoaxers, I would accept that it's unsuitable for other criminals...

  6. Ochib

    How long before your get the scammers sending an email warning that the warning email sent by the FBI, warning about the scammers, is a scam

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Expect arrests"

    Doubt it - the FBI is mostly focused on interfering with politics at the moment.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Here, FTFY

      Doubt it - the FBI is mostly focused on interfering with politics investigating interference in politics at the moment.

  8. Nick Kew
    Thumb Up

    Bottom line

    From the final paragraph of the article, "So far the FBI says no one appears to have been financially hurt by the scam ..."

    'nuff said.

  9. Not also known as SC

    Emails from the FBI

    Not trolling, genuine question. Is it normal in the States for government departments to send out emails and messages to the general population? Here in the UK I have never had an unsolicited email from any government department so if I was to receive one, I'd be really suspicious of it. I imagined that the States would be the same but since reading about the Hawaii missile incident I'm curious to know if government departments in the States, such as the FBI, do send out routine unsolicited emails etc to people.

    1. JohnFen

      Re: Emails from the FBI

      "Is it normal in the States for government departments to send out emails and messages to the general population?"

      No. In fact, most government agencies (and banks, etc.) try to drive home the fact that they don't do this and if you get an unsolicited email saying it's from them, it isn't.

    2. albegadeep

      Re: Emails from the FBI

      "Is it normal in the States for government departments to send out emails and messages to the general population?"

      No, unless you specifically signed up for receiving emails. And even then, it would be a generic broadcast message (local city council letting you know about a road being blocked for a few days, for instance) rather than a demand for you to do something.

      In my experience, emails asking me to do something don't have a chance of being legitimate unless my name is at the top, and the "from" email address actually matches who it's supposedly from. Even then, even when I believe the message to be legit, I usually manually type the web address (from my memory) rather than click the email's links.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Emails from the FBI

      An unsolicited email or texts answer is never. There are two types of emails a US entity would send: generic alert email/text or one in direct response to a persons contacting the agency. The first is often a traffic or weather alert and is always informational and never requires a response. The second will have either generic content ("Thanks for contacting...") or will have specific content related to a specific question you raised. In the second case, the response will refer to specific issue.

      A law enforcement issue will either be an official letter or someone with official credential coming 'a knockin'.

  10. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Arrests?

    Agents are also seeking out the scammers – and very few things piss off the G-Men like someone taking their name in vain. Expect arrests.

    I know our transatlantic cousins are allegedly fond of extra-judicial renderings, but I'd be very surprised if any of the scammers in question were in a jurisdiction where even this sort of thing was practical.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Arrests?

      Why?

      Can't find it now, but I seem to recollect a recent Reg story about a recent 419 arrest in the US being a 60-year-old (white, IIRC) American who had been posing as a Nigerian with millions to launder. 'merkins are very good at adopting ideas from around the world.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Arrests?

        Well, if there are scammers based on US soil pretending to be US officials, and targeting US citizens, more fool them. I believe they would be classed as low-hanging fruit.

        People pulling this sort of scam are far more likely to be based in a country with no extradition treaty with the US (or if in the US, then targeting non-US citizens, which the TLA authorities will care much less about). There are plenty to choose from...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'just' 'fake' 'FBI' emails!??

      We had a physical visit from 'the FBI', and they were because they had badges etc -

      nice meeting on security . . . one 'FBI' officer went to the bathroom, took quite a long time -

      and so we moved building, because we didn't think we'd ever find their ANT NOISYFUGGER radar retroreflector implant, allegedly.

      and we are ~ 6400km from teh USA

    3. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Arrests?

      IIRC, Florida is the nexus for internet scams, sort of "The Detroit of Wire Fraud", but still a going concern.

      Definitely "in jurisdiction".

      Meanwhile, with the revolving door at the FBI, you just have to wait until someone who would do this sort of stuff is the head. I hear this guy is next in line.

      And to those whose bank has never sent them email that looks very much like a phish: "Lucky You!"

  11. David Roberts Silver badge
    Pint

    Hello, FBI.

    Ah, good.

    Got through to the Ferry Boat Inn.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Hello, FBI.

      Do they serve a good Yorkshire Pudding?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Enclosed booby-trapped malware laden form ..

    I take it from the dearth of details that this booby-trapped malware laden form requires Microsoft Windows in order to successfully execute.

  13. rtb61

    Forward Them To The Appropriate Authorities

    Don't just delete them, leaving a trap for an actual sucker. Forward them to the authorities and let them deal with them or not ie Teresa May and the Tories because she just don't give a fuck about poor people being victims of crime.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These types of emails have been coming through for so many years it should be an involuntary muscular jerk that deletes them.

    Forget checking email headers etc, it is really just common sense when reading the context of the actual message - isn't it ??

    I guess though based on how many people do get hooked there are community members who are running low on common sense these days.

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