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BBB Tip of the Week: Fake court summons

Sun., March 30, 2014

Scammers are sending out emails that look like an official notice from a court. The emails often accuse the recipient of using illegal software or other offenses but are otherwise vague. They claim to be sent from the clerk of the court, another court official or an attorney.

The purpose behind these fake emails is to steal your personal information. They contain links to websites or attachments with malware. Once downloaded the malware infects your computer in order to make your personal information available to cyber-criminals. Alternatively, the link in the email may send you to a website that looks official, like that of a court, but is actually phishing for your personal information.

Court officials have advised people not to open emails summoning them to court. In fact, because email delivery is hard to prove, email communication is not used by courts to provide notice or to summon an appearance. The Better Business Bureau urges you to beware of variations of this scam. For example, people have received emails, texts and phone calls claiming that they have failed to appear for jury duty. The scammer will claim that the person will receive a large fine and a prison sentence if they do not take action.

The BBB offers the following tips to keep you safe from scammers using these types of scare tactics:

• Court summonses are generally delivered in person or by postal mail.

• Courts will usually send communication only by email, text or phone call if you have opted in for these methods.

• Before taking action, always confirm the notice with the court. Use a phone number you’ve gotten online or by calling directory assistance. Don’t call a phone number given in an unexpected email or text.

• If the notice is from an attorney, check the lawyer directory at the state or county bar association. If you are unable to identify the sender as an attorney, call the BBB at (509) 455-4200 for help.

• Keep your antivirus software up to date.

If you receive one of these email scams, report it to the BBB at or by calling (509) 455-4200 and to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

By Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor


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