Sophisticated scam targets music lovers who legally download songs

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Scott Lakin loves music.  In fact, he listens to it pretty much all the time.

To keep up with some of his favorite artists, Lakin says he'll go to legitimate websites where consumers can pay a small charge in order to download a song. 

"It's usually between a $1 and $1.50 for a song," Lakin told 3 On Your Side.

Lakin said he recently went to a well-known website he uses often and, after paying a small $1.29 charge, he legally downloaded one song.

A month later, Lakin received a disturbing letter from the Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency, accusing him of downloading the song illegally.

"I was baffled," Lakin said. "I had no idea what was going on."

The Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency sounds intimidating.  After all, it has an official-looking seal similar to those used by government agencies. They're reportedly located in Washington D.C., and they wrote that Lakin might be "arrested for felony criminal copyright infringement."  The letter went on to say there's a possibility he "will be fingerprinted, photographed and held in jail." 

The four-page letter was even sent using Certified Mail, which got Lakin's attention. 

"Who would be sending me a certified letter?  So, I opened it up and my wife was all freaked out," Lakin explained.

To resolve the issue and to avoid prosecution, the letter asked Lakin to mail the agency a check for $395.

Lakin, however, was suspicious, and contacted 3 On Your Side. 

"We're like, this is a scam," he said. "If it is then how do I shut it down or what are my legal actions."

3 On Your Side got involved and after poking around with a lot of questions, check out what happened.

The official-looking agency demanding Lakin pay $395 took their website down. All that was left by airtime was a small message at the bottom of the screen saying,  "Effective immediately, the Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency has ceased operations.  Please disregard  any notices you received from us, and please do not send us any payments." 

By Wednesday morning, that was gone, too.

It's unknown if the website was removed voluntarily or if they were ordered to take it down.

Lakin says that's good news, but he still wonders how this so-called agency knew he downloaded a specific song on a specific date, even though he did it legally. 

"Somebody, somehow got my information," Lakin said.

He's right about that, and it's an issue that could be investigated and examined by federal authorities.

In the meantime, if you received a letter from the Copyright Law Enforcement Agency, disregard it.  It's a cleverly disguised scheme meant to pressure and intimidate consumers into sending them money.