The Short of It
A sex offender email virus scam in Minnesota is starting to spread, including to my mailbox!
The scary part? The emails are a scam, and the links lead to viruses. Close inspection reveals grammatical errors, but at first glance, the messages appear legit.
Mark Lanterman, father of nine, recently found one in his inbox, but because of his background in computer forensics, he didn't click on any of the links.
"Our primary job as parents is to protect these little people that we created," he told WCCO TV. "I believe most parents, if they received this notification that a registered sex offender was moving into the area and here's a link telling me who they are...I think most of us would click."
The links are made to look like legitimate websites. But if you click, they don't go to the sites listed. They infect your computer instead and steal your passwords and financial information.
"These hackers, they're not stupid. They know what people will click on," said Lanterman. "Think before you click, people are trying to trick you."
I don't live in Minnesota. But out of curiosity, I decided to check my spam folder to see if any of these emails had come my way. Look what I just found sitting right at the top:
Pretty scary, right? Obviously, this scam is starting to spread. So what can we do to protect ourselves?
For starters, know this: If a sex offender lives in your area, officers will not email you about it directly. So, if you get any email from a government agency, no matter how real it looks, call the agency before clicking on a link. Because once you click, there's no going back.
"Unfortunately, criminals sometimes use the names and logos of trusted organizations to try to victimize people. This is an example of that type of criminal activity," Jill Oliviera with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension told WCCO TV. "The BCA urges the public to avoid clicking on emails or links from senders with whom you did not initiate the contact. And when in doubt, delete the email or pick up the phone and call the supposed sender to verify. Do so using a number that doesn't appear in the email."