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Don’t open that email, warns Virginia’s Attorney General

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wants you to know emails that appear to be from his office stating you owe money and threatening your arrest, are not, in fact, from him. The Attorney General's Office issued a warning Monday about a "major, ongoing phishing scam" that involves his office. The Virginia State Police has launched an investigation into the scam.

The emails claim to be a "Final Legal Notification" from Attorney General Herring or his staff regarding debt owed to "Cash Advance, Inc," or some variation thereof, or claim that an "arrest warrant" has been taken out on the recipient. The emails demand payment from the recipient to resolve the issues. In some cases, recipients may receive follow-up phone calls from the scammers perpetuating the fraud. The Attorney General's Office does not operate in such a manner and the recipient should not respond to the emails or phone calls.

Virginia State Police investigators would like for people who have been contacted by the scammers to email investigators.

"We're not aware of anyone actually sending any money at this point," Attorney General Mark Herring told CBS 6 on Monday.

Herring said this type of fraud is one the rise and tends to follow security breaches where people's emails and private information is hacked.

While he says the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection is aggressively pursuing the crime, he says cases like this are often difficult to prosecute.

"They could be doing this from somewhere else in the country or someone else around the globe, not necessarily right here in Virginia so that's why it's important for people to always have meaningful strong password protection, to be suspicious of emails from someone they don't know and how to be on guard and on the lookout," Herring added.

The Attorney General's Office offered the following advice to avoid falling victim to this phishing scam:

  • Phishing emails typically contain misspellings and poor grammar, and demand that you "act immediately."
  • Most legitimate companies do not ask for personal information over email or by unsolicited phone call. Should you have a question about your status or account with an institution, call the company directly from a number off their real website.
  • Do not click on links in suspected emails or use numbers contained in them.
  • Never reply to a suspicious email or provide personal information to an unsolicited phone call.
  • Report the email to the purported institution or appropriate law enforcement agency.
  • Use strong passwords for your email, computer, and financial accounts, including variations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols of at least 8 characters.
  • Install anti-virus programs on your computer and scan files and emails regularly.
  • Check for regular updates to your operating system.
  • Install and activate a software and hardware firewall on your computer.
  • Backup all of your data regularly using an external hard drive.
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