The Bank of England is mounting an urgent investigation after falling victim to a hoax e-mail that asked business and the public to download software to protect their cash accounts.
The UK central bank said it had acted Tuesday after more than 100,000 replies to the e-mail were blocked overnight by its internal computer system, which did not recognize the sender's address.
The e-mail purported to come from an administrator at the bank and claimed that downloading the software would help prevent credit card fraud.
The Bank of England immediately launched an investigation but said it was unclear where the e-mail had originated from or who had sent it, so it was unable to say whether it was an attempt at commercial fraud or straightforward computer hacking.
A spokeswoman for the bank told CNN that the bank's IT team were working with Britain's National Hi-tech Crime Unit checking the e-mail from "adminbankofengland.co.uk" and its attached software file -- antikeylog2004.exe -- to see if it contained a virus that could attack computer networks.
The bogus e-mail stated: "Dear customer. The security of your personal and account information is extremely important to us. By practicing good security habits, you can help us ensure that your private information is protected. Please install our special software, that will remove all the keyloggers and backdoors from your computer."
The bank said on its Web site: "We are aware that fraudulent e-mails, which have the appearance of being sent by the Bank of England, are in circulation. Any e-mails with the following address [email protected]
should be deleted immediately.
"The e-mail asks the recipient to download a file (antikeylog2004.exe) to protect the security of their personal and account information. Both the e-mail and attachment are fraudulent."
The BoE spokeswoman told CNN the number of the e-mails in circulation could be much higher than 100,000. The 100,000 figure only reflected e-mails returned from anti-virus firewalls and e-mail "bounce backs" from people who are not in their offices.
She added: "We have already taken some calls from members of the public and some banks which have been sent this e-mail. Our advice to people is to delete this e-mail immediately."
Hoax e-mails have caused considerable disruption to British banks this year with many high street branches forced to warn customers against giving out their account information, the UK's Press Association reported.
Nationwide issued a warning in October after people were sent bogus messages trying to trick them into giving away details such as PIN numbers and passwords.
Halifax and NatWest were forced to shut their online banking sites in the same month after customers were sent hoax e-mails.
Another scam targeted BA after the group reported a disappointing trading performance that saw it drop out of the FTSE 100 Index in March. An e-mail claimed the company was in such dire straits that it was offering free flights. CNN News