Beware court notice emails

Don't Waste Your Money

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UPDATED 2/7/14:  Many people are opening up their email inboxes right now to find an unexpected, and often frightening notice awaiting them.

One claims to be a "notice to appear" in court.

The newest appear to be from the Hamilton County, Ohio, Court of Appeals.

Some of the others include a demand for payment for your utility bill. A third, that has been going around for several years, claims to be from the IRS.

Here's what to do, and what not to do.

Court Notice Email

A number of viewers have emailed me in recent days to ask about a strange notice that popped up in their inbox.

It tells them they must appear in court on an upcoming date, often in Chicago or New York.

Jenn Minor told me she received multiple court notices, demanding she answer questions about illegally downloading software.  By the second notice, she said, she began to panic.

"The first one I didn't pay a lot of attention to," Minor said. "With the second one I really started to get worried, because I am thinking what did I do? I don't download illegal software.  So I was starting to panic a little bit!"

But a number of county clerks and State Attorneys General are warning these notices to appear are not from any real court.

Rather, it is a foreign email scam designed to put malware into your computer when you open the attachment to learn more.

Minor said she almost opened the link, but at the last minute decided to Google the notice.  That's when she learned she was about download a computer virus.

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals tells us it is not sending out any emails.  However, clerks there have been receiving calls from as far away as England and Australia asking about these messages, so it seems these emails are being sent to inboxes worldwide.

IRS Email Notice

It's similar to an email scam that surfaces every tax season claiming to be from the IRS.  The email states there is a problem with your tax refund.

In both cases, do not open the attachment.  Delete the email. The scammers do not know who you are, as you will notice the email does not have your name on the top.

Electric Bill Email

The newest email scam purportedly comes from PG&E or Atmos Energy.

It claims you have an unpaid balance of $300 or more, and says you need to pay your bill immediately or face disconnection.

However, it is an email scam designed, like the others, to open up an attachment and download malware into your computer.

That malware could steal personal identification numbers and passwords from your computer.

Again, you will note that your name is not in the email.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line:  The IRS, Courts, and your gas or electric company will never email you demanding action. They will send a certified letter in the mail or show up in the door.

Delete those emails so you stay safe and you don't waste your money. 

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