A warning is out about an email that looks like an official notice from the government, but could wreak havoc with your computer. It's going out nationwide and it's under investigation by the feds.
As head of her own public relations company, Janet Appel spends most of her day on her computer. Recently she got an email that looked like it was from the Internal Revenue Service with an IRS.gov domain.
"Being a skeptic, I did doubt it, but I was also concerned that maybe it was legitimate and that maybe I should open it," said Appel.
When she opened the attachment, her computer was infected with a virus.
"Within five to ten minutes, the computer just froze and had all kinds of swirls and patterns on it," said Appel.
She said it cost her $3,000 to fix the problem.
Denzel Fearon is with the computer crimes unit of the New York State Police. He said scammers are primarily doing it for one reason.
"Money. That's what they want,” said Fearon. “It lets the user know that a person has possibly been infected with a virus and in order to get rid of that virus you have to pay money to purchase what is a fake anti-virus removal program. And the way the software works, it's really quite damaging, where it's very, very hard to remove this program without making that purchase."
Another official-looking email is making the rounds. It appears to be a speeding ticket from the New York state police and asks that payment be sent to town hall in Chatham, New York. A close look at the email shows that the spelling of Chatham is missing the "h."
"The state police will generally never contact you regarding a ticket via email," said Fearon.
The New York State Police is working with federal authorities to trace the emails. Fearon says they might be coming from eastern Europe. In the meantime, he and the IRS are warning the public to be on the lookout.
"The IRS never contacts a taxpayer about their account over email, so if you receive such a communication, chances are you're looking at a scam," said Dianne Besunder, IRS spokesperson.