Bogus e-mails from purported rogue U.S. military servicemen are being sent as part of a spam e-mail scam, FBI officials told ABC News.
The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, issued an alert Tuesday warning of the spam scam in which e-mails are made to appear as though they come from crooked soldiers asking recipients for help in moving war loot out of Iraq.
"In this particular case, they've got what appears to be a rogue GI who is looking to take money looted from Iraq and get it out of Iraq to the United States and try to prey on the greed of American citizens," Shawn Henry, deputy assistant director of the FBI's cyber division, told ABC News.
The e-mails vary in content, but in general, they explain how a purported U.S. serviceman has found tens of millions of dollars in Iraq. Some of the e-mails claim that the funds were taken from terrorists and insurgents who were using the money to buy bombs and ammunition.
One e-mail claimed the sender has survived two suicide bomb attacks and is eager to start a new life.
The e-mails request help in bringing the money to the United States and ask recipients to provide personal information to begin the transaction. The scammers promise participants a cut of the reputed funds, and then try to get bank account information from the recipients to finish the transaction.
The names of the alleged rogue servicemen used in the e-mails are believed to be fabricated, and law enforcement officials don't think actual U.S. soldiers are involved in the scam. Based on analysis of the e-mails, the spam is believed to be coming from overseas.
The FBI has received dozens of complaints about this scam, and the agency said it is not unusual for hundreds of victims to get caught up in scams of this type, with possibly hundreds of thousands of e-mails sent daily.
Recipients of the scam e-mail should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, the FBI said. Also, the FBI urges recipients to delete e-mails from unknown users, and to not open any links in the e-mails because doing so could lead to downloading dangerous computer viruses or spyware.
The FBI said the scam's portrayal of U.S. military personnel as corrupt looters is particularly troubling. "We've got servicemen and women overseas who are representing the United States of America, and making a great sacrifice, and to portray them in this light, I think is egregious," Henry said.
According to the FBI, this scam is a new iteration of an old e-mail scam, often originating in countries like Nigeria. Last month, IC3 received its 1 millionth Internet fraud complaint.