Consumer Alert: Email to Meridian woman looks like it came from a court

Special to the Idaho StatesmanMarch 13, 2014 

Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing ... reads the beginning of the notice to appear in a New York court.

The email, from support.2@sullcrom.com, looks authentic and legal. An Internet search shows sullcrom.com is associated with a weighty law firm in New York. The request is to address the illegal use of software by Valarie Pabalis.

"I've got no idea what this is or even if it's a legal request," said Pabalis, who is owner of Elements Massage in Meridian. "It says there's a pretrial notice attached, but I'm confused by the whole notice."

Idaho residents are calling about emails titled Urgent Court Notice, Judicial Summons, Notice of Appearance, Pretrial Notice, or Notice to Appear in Court, that seem to come from law firms in the United States and United Kingdom. The email has a spoofed address, meaning it appears to be from a legitimate law firm.

It is accompanied by a court docket number: N#7685, N#98208, N#9411-583, to mention a few that have come to the Better Business Bureau office. A PDF or a .doc attachment accompanies the email and should not be opened or unzipped. If it says .exe then it is a problem and should not be run or opened. If you open the attachment, your computer becomes infected with a malware called Asprox. Among other things, your computer can be used to spam more people with the malware, commit advertisement fraud or worse.

In U.S. law, process is usually a summons - a paper that tells a defendant he or she is being sued in a specific court. Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure should be delivered in person or "by mail." The only time the courts will deliberately contact a party via email is to let him or her know that an appeals court decision is about to be issued, and even in those cases the person will be notified by mail.

The FBI website IC3.gov warns consumers of recently reported spam email containing a fraudulent subpoena notifying recipients they are ordered to appear and testify before a grand jury. The email attempts to appear authentic by containing a court case number, federal code, name and address of a federal court, courtroom number, issuing officers' names and a court seal.

Recipients are told to click the link provided in the email in order to download and print associated information for their records. If recipients click the link, malicious code is downloaded onto their computer.

The email also contains threats with contempt of court charges if they fail to appear. Recipients are also told the subpoena will remain in effect until the court grants a release. As with most spam, the content contains grammar errors and multiple spelling errors.

If you receive this type of notification and are unsure of its authenticity, you should contact the issuing court for validation. Forward the messages to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov or the FBI at IC3.gov.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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