Fake FBI Warning About Visiting Illegal Websites

How to Avoid Downloading a Virus

Beware of messages purporting to originate from the FBI (or CIA) accusing you of visiting illegal websites. These emails are unauthorized and arrive with an attachment containing the "Sober" virus. This virus-bearing email with a malicious file attached has been circulating since February 2005. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date and your computer is scanned regularly.

Another variant of the message comprises the user's computer with a virus that can install itself when clicking on a compromised website.

A window pops up indicating that the user’s Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as associated with child pornography sites. To unlock their computer, users are informed they have to pay a fine using a service for prepaid money cards.

How to Handle a Fake FBI Email

If you receive a message like this, don't panic — but do delete it without clicking on any links or opening any attached files. Attachments to these emails contain a worm called Sober-K (or a variant thereof).

Though these messages and others similar to them purport to come from the FBI or CIA and may even show return addresses like police@fbi.gov or post@cia.gov, they were not authorized or sent by any U.S. government agency.

FBI Statement on the Message Containing a Virus

FBI ALERTS PUBLIC TO RECENT E-MAIL SCHEME

Emails purporting to come from FBI are phony

Washington, D.C. - The FBI today warned the public to avoid falling victim to an ongoing mass email scheme wherein computer users receive unsolicited emails purportedly sent by the FBI. These scam emails tell the recipients that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center and that they have accessed illegal web sites. The emails then direct recipients to open an attachment and answer questions. The attachments contain a computer virus.

These emails did not come from the FBI. Recipients of this or similar solicitations should know that the FBI does not engage in the practice of sending unsolicited emails to the public in this manner.

Opening email attachments from an unknown sender is a risky and dangerous endeavor as such attachments frequently contain viruses that can infect the recipient's computer. The FBI strongly encourages computer users not to open such attachments.

Sample Fake FBI Email

Here's email text contributed by A. Edwards on Feb. 22, 2005:

Dear Sir/Madam,

We have logged your IP-address on more than 40 illegal Websites.

Important: Please answer our questions! The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,
M. John Stellford

Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 2130
Washington, DC 20535
(202) 324-3000


Sample Fake CIA Email

Here's email text contributed anonymously on Nov. 21, 2005:

Dear Sir/Madam,

We have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal Websites.

Important:
Please answer our questions! The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,
Steven Allison

Central Intelligence Agency -CIA-
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20505

phone: (703) 482-0623
7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., US Eastern time

Sources and further reading:

FBI Alerts Public to Email Scam
FBI press release, February 22, 2005