Fact Check

U.S. District Court Subpoena Phish

Is the U.S. District Court sending out subpoenas by e-mail?

Published Apr 14, 2008

Phishing bait:   A United States District Court is sending out subpoenas via e-mail.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2008]

From: United States District Court
Date: Monday, April 14, 2008 8:33 AM
Subject: Subpoena in case #29-809-RYM

AO 88 (Rev.11/94) Subpoena in a Civil Case


Issued by the


Issued to:
John Smith
John Smith Construction Co., Inc


Case number:

Origins:   On 14 April 2008, Internet users began receiving messages like the one reproduced above, e-mails purporting to be subpoenas commanding the recipients to appear before a grand jury in a U.S. District Court. The messages were a phishing scheme that targeted business executives (a tactic known as "whaling") and attempted to lure recipients into downloading and installing software that recorded their keystrokes and allowed their computers to be controlled remotely.

The U.S. Courts system is already aware of this scheme and has posted an advisory alert on its web site:

Notice: Invalid Subpoenas

Reports have been received of bogus e-mail grand jury subpoenas, purportedly sent by a United States District Court. The e-mails are not a valid communication from a federal court and may contain harmful links. Recipients are warned not to open any links or download any information relating to this e-mail notice. The emails were sent from a uscourts.com address. The federal Judiciary's email address is uscourts.gov. Law enforcement authorities have been notified.

Last updated:   5 May 2008


  Sources Sources:

    Chapman, Glenn.   "Hackers Harpoon US Executives with Phony Email Subpoenas."

    Agence France Presse.   5 May 2008.

    Markoff, John.   "Larger Prey Are Targets of Phishing."

    The New York Times.   16 April 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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