The federal judiciary and several state courts are warning the public of an email scam in which emails—supposedly from the courts or law firms—include false information on nonexistent cases and, in some instances, carry viruses.
Federal judiciary officials noticed an uptick in complaints about problematic emails this month, according to a spokesman. Officials are advising recipients not to open any attachments or links until they check with whichever court is listed. Courts typically do not send emails unless parties agree to receive documents in a certain case electronically.
Charles Hall, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said in an email that the judiciary was aware of fraudulent emails in Georgia, Louisiana and the District of Columbia.
"We simply have no way to know how many people received these emails, or who is behind it," he said. "Our main response at this point is public information. Federal courts do not typically send case information by email. If people receive an email about a case with which they are not familiar, they should contact the nearest federal court before opening it."
In the District of Columbia, according to the court system's website, fraudulent messages alerting recipients about supposedly new pending cases were being sent from email addresses ending in @jonesday.com and @hoganlovells.com.
A spokeswoman for the D.C. court system, Leah Gurowitz, said in an email that court staff determined the emails were not sent by the firms. "Both firms indicated that they were already aware and were working to address the matter," she said. "Apparently these scam emails were sent to people not only in the DC area, but across the country.”
Representatives of Jones Day and Hogan Lovells were not immediately available to comment.
In Georgia, the court system's administrative office posted an example of one of the emails, which informed recipients that they were charged with using illegal software and ordered them to appear in the "Court of Georgia." The emails included an attachment that the court warned might include a virus or malware.
Court officials in other states, including Maryland, Nebraska, Missouri and Minnesota, have also reported problems.