Last week, a woman I had just met while working on a story received an email from a Christy Lewis. She thought it was a note from me, so she opened it.
"We are writing to let you know scholastic dues assistance is available with the education amnesty program,” the email said.
But Patty Woodward has no student debt, and that's just the beginning of the problems with this bogus email.
“The email was from someone named Christy Lewis. Can I speak with Christy?” I asked when I called the number left in the email.
“There’s no Christy in this office,” one person who answered the phone.
Each time I called, a different person answered with a different name for their business.
I got hung up on, put on hold and insulted.
When I asked for the location of their company the person on the other end of the call wouldn’t give it to me.
“To be honest, you seem kind of fishy yourself,” he said.
But it's clear, according to the Assistant Attorney General Julie Bays, they just wanted Patty to read their urgent message so they could try to sell her something.
“These crooks are getting very sophisticated. So they might run across a news article or something with two names in it and they’ll use that. We call it social engineering – to try to convince the person that they’re reaching out to to at least open the email because you might want to call this number and get sold a product you don’t need or want,” Bays said.
Scammers can use software to run names and combinations of addresses through different email services and hope that one gets a hit, she added.
This is one of thousands of reported scams in our state each year.
Bays said 70 percent of the efforts by consumer representatives in the AG's office are spent combating phone and email scams. The crimes are rampant, on the rise and the criminals behind them are hard to catch, she said.
“Most likely this is sent from a different state or they’re out of the country so until they’re traced, we’re not going to know where they are and even if we do trace them and find them, a lot of times they’re out of our reach as the State Attorney General,” Bays told News 9.
The best way to avoid trouble with scams is to just delete the email if you don't recognize it and don't pick up the phone if it's a number you don't know, according to Bays.