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Commerce Department warns consumers to beware of phishing scams – don’t take the bait!

February 27, 2013


For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s name is currently being misappropriated in a phishing scheme related to the Unclaimed Property Program.  The emails reported to the Commerce Department use the subject line “Heritage”, and are written in Slovenian urging relatives of “Andrew Novak” or other unknown relatives to claim their inheritance. The Commerce Department is working with other government entities within Minnesota and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to identify additional victims of this phishing scam and provide information to stop the scam.  Additionally, the Department has contacted Microsoft to disable the email address referenced in the message.

Consumers need to know that the Commerce Department Unclaimed Property Program does not contact individuals to request personal information or payment to claim missing property.  If you did not initiate a conversation, you should never provide personal information, including Social Security Numbers or account numbers over the telephone or internet.

If you are interested in checking to see if you or your loved ones have unclaimed property for you to claim, visit the website www.missingmoney.com or go to the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.  

What should I do if I suspect I’m being phished?

If you receive an email notifying you of the death of a relative you have never heard of and recent changes in legislation enabling your ability to inherit from a first cousin making you the sole heir, you are being scammed.  There are other things you can look for to determine if it is a fake notification:

  • Look for typos, grammatical errors, etc. in the text that could indicate it originated overseas. 
  • Check to see who it says is the sender. Hover your mouse over the link to see if the sender is masking their email address with a title that appears more legitimate.
  • Copy and paste the link into Notepad (not Word). Notepad does not support html, so if the link is a fake address, the real link will show up. 
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the email to the link that you are actually directed to.
  • Log on to the official website, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited email.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.

The best advice for all consumers questioning the validity of an email – be very suspicious of any unsolicited email requesting personal information.

The Commerce Department recommends the following tips to consumers who receive this or other suspicious emails:

  • Do not open any attachments.
  • Do not click on any links. 
  • Delete the email from your inbox, and then delete it again from your trash or recycling folder.
  • Run a full system scan using reputable virus software.

Who do I call if I have been scammed?

If you believe that you have been scammed using an internet phishing email, please contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a joint partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to file a complaint.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Minneapolis Office
111 Washington Avenue South, Suite 1100
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612-376-3200
http://minneapolis.fbi.gov/

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center

600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
Toll free: 1-877-382-4357
www.ftc.gov 

United States Secret Service
Minneapolis Field Office

300 S. 4th St., Suite 750
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 348-1800 Fax: (612) 348-1807