Scam mimics email from Manatee County Clerk of Court

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Manatee County Clerk of the Court is warning residents about a possible scam that comes in the form of an email purportedly sent by the office itself. The agency says residents should be on alert for the scam email, and that the message contains dangerous malware that can infect an unsuspecting user’s computer.

"Some things look legit but they are actually not," says computer technician Chris Hammond, talking about malicious emails that aim to steal personal information. "[It’s] basically like turning and letting anyone behind you see your pin as you enter it into an ATM would be the same as opening an infected file or attachment."

For some Suncoast residents, that bad dream has become a reality.

"We recently received phone calls and emails from residents inquiring about emails that members of the community were receiving about court dates," says Angel Colonneso of the Manatee County Clerk’s Office. “It’s a notice to appear, but it gives some of the language a court document would have in it, but this is not legitimate.”

Colonneso says the email includes details like the courtroom and even the court date, as well as an attachment or a possible link that if opened could cause harm to the opener’s computer.

"It would run the gamut of any potential virus that’s out there, potential phishing for information --perhaps if someone would actually get scared and type in their social security number, who knows what it would ask if you click on the link?" Colonneso asks.

Colonneso advises people to not click on the link in the email (or any email from an unknown sender), saying you should just delete the email. And remember, the clerk’s office will never use email as a form of contact.

"If it looks like it’s from the court, its not,” Colonneso says. “Again, the court wouldn’t send anything via email."

In the meantime, Hammond says you protect yourself by updating your computer security options. The clerk’s office stresses that if you have any question you should contact them directly.