Con artists continue to use the names of high-ranking government officials to dupe consumers and steal their identities or infect their computers with spyware.

In the latest scheme, unscrupulous spammers falsely use the name of United States Attorney General Eric Holder. The fraudulent e-mail alleges the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have information that the e-mail recipient is involved in money laundering and terrorist-related activities.

To avoid prosecution, the e-mail claims recipient must pay $370 for a certificate from the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman. The e-mail gives consumers the name of the EFCC Chairman and contact information for the required certificate.

FBI officials, however, warn consumers that these e-mails are a hoax.

"Government agencies do not send unsolicited e-mails of this nature," according to a warning issued today by the FBI. "The FBI, Department of Justice, and other United States government executives are briefed on numerous investigations, but do not personally contact consumers regarding such matters."

Government agencies also never send threatening letters or e-mails to consumers that demand payments for Internet crimes, the FBI added.

Consumers can protect themselves from getting taken in these scams by:

• Never responding to unsolicited e-mails or clicking on embedded links associated with these types of e-mails because they may contain viruses or malware;

• Guarding your name, Social Security number, e-mail address, and other Personally Identifiable Information. Proving that information to con artists could compromise your identity.

Consumers victimized by these or other Internet crime should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.