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Thoughts & View: ‘Hereby you are notified . . . .’

Uh-oh. I’m in deep trouble. The following letter popped up in my email the other day:

Notice of appearance,

Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing that will take place in the court of St. LouisTampa in April 19, 2014 at 09:45 am.

You are kindly asked to prepare and bring the documents relating to the case to court on the specified date.

The copy of the court notice is attached to this letter, please, download and read it thoroughly.

Note: The case may be heard by the judge in your absence if you do not come.

Yours very truly,

MOONEY BLAKE

Clerk of court

I’m supposed to appear in court and I have no idea what I have done.

What documents am I to prepare and bring?

And to which court? St. Louis or Tampa? Or is there a place called St. LouisTampa of which I am unaware?

I need to make flight reservations. I need to get a lawyer!

Or not.

This is a scam.

(One of the clear giveaways — as in a lot of scam emails — is the abysmal English.)

Even though I recognized it for what it was, I was dying to know what the attached “court notice” could possibly say, but no way would I open the attachment.

It and the original email have been deleted.

Part of me is worried simply because I opened the email, but hopefully, hackers would gain access only via the download. Because hackers are exactly who are behind this con job.

I Googled “court appearance email,” and up popped links to various news stories, including one that ran in the N.Y. Daily News in January. Aside from the court date, place of appearance and name of the “clerk,” the scam missive it quoted is word-for-word the one I got.

Apparently, this relatively new scam mail was launched late in 2013 and is now infesting computers nationwide. And the big danger is the attachment. The News notes, “ . . . those who click out of curiosity or concern download a virus that can crash their computers.” (Ha! My instincts were correct! For once.)

The article also explains: “The malware attached in the email strike . . . 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.”

I have no idea what a “botnet” is, but I know I don’t want one.

I must also note that my email provider is a lot sharper than I. It automatically sent the letter to the spam file.

Email scamsters are forever coming up with new tricks. There is much info on the internet regarding how to recognize the phonies, so you can educate yourself if you are not email savvy.

Among the informational sites is http://www.us-cert. gov/, the webpage of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Term, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. It has pages of advice, so I’ll quote just one bit, which can apply to all the scams:

“Regard Unsolicited Email with Suspicion”

“Don’t automatically trust any email sent to you by an unknown individual or organization. Never open an attachment to unsolicited email. Most importantly, never click on a link sent to you in an email. Cleverly crafted links can take you to forged web sites set up to trick you into divulging private information or downloading viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.”

Scamsters, evil creatures that they are, prey upon the trusting. Be aware. And ever wary.

– Karen Zautyk

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