The California Secretary of State's office has learned that official-looking emails are being sent to Californians promising them fraud compensation awards from the state government. These emails may be a phishing scam sent by sophisticated identity thieves trying to obtain personal information to access your financial accounts, obtain credit cards in your name, or commit other crimes.
The solicitations typically ask for the recipient to reply by email with name, age, address and other personal identifying information. The solicitations tend to have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Quotes a specific amount of money to be awarded;
- Contains a "reference code" or "payments code";
- Mentions a real victim compensation program, such as the California Victims of Corporate Fraud Compensation Fund (VCFCF);
- Requests a reply to an email address that does not end in a governmental email extension. The California Secretary of State’s email addresses end in "@sos.ca.gov"; and
- Provides a contact person’s name and reference programs or departments that do not exist in California government, such as International Scammed Victims Compensation, Internet Fraud Compensation Fund, or Foreign Scam Payment Operations Department.
These emails are not being sent by the California Secretary of State’s office or any governmental agency. Although some Californians may be eligible for VCFCF funds, the California Secretary of State’s office would not notify potential victims by sending unsolicited emails or requesting personal information be sent over the Internet. Information about the VCFCF and instructions for submitting a claim are at www.sos.ca.gov/vcfcf.
If you are uncertain about the origins of any email that claims to be from a government agency, do not reply to the sender and instead forward a copy to VCFCF@sos.ca.gov at the California Secretary of State’s office or call (916) 651–9070.
The Federal Trade Commission offers helpful hints to avoid becoming a phishing scam victim and some suggestions about what to do if you have been victimized. You also can send a copy of the unwanted or deceptive email solicitation to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com.
If you have been a victim of an Internet email scam, you should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
People who receive one of these fraudulent solicitations also can mail a written complaint along with the entire solicitation to the California Attorney General’s office, Public Inquiry Unit, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, California 94244-2550. A complaint form, which can be completed online and printed to mail, is available on the California Attorney General's website.