updated 2/18/2005 8:18:37 PM ET 2005-02-19T01:18:37

Federal authorities are investigating two e-mail scams, including one targeting families of soldiers killed in Iraq, that claim to be connected to the Homeland Security Department.

The scams “are among the worst we have ever encountered,” Michael J. Garcia, director of the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, said Friday.

Both of the online pleas for help — and money — link themselves to the bureau.

In one scheme, e-mail sent to families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq include a link to the bureau’s Web site. The e-mail seeks to recover money from a friend of the slain soldier.

In the other, the e-mail identifies itself as being sent by a federal agent trying to track down funds looted from the Iraqi Central Bank by Saddam Hussein’s son. The e-mail also links to the bureau Web site and asks for confirmation of the recipient’s address by urging, “There is a very important and confidential matter which I want us both to discuss.”

Garcia called both e-mail campaigns “bogus” and urged people to ignore and delete them.

“Most troubling is the fact that some are targeting the relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq,” Garcia said in a statement. “We are also concerned about the fact that these criminals are impersonating ICE agents and referring to ICE’s official Web site in an effort to steal money from Americans who have lost loved ones.”

Agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau were withdrawn from Iraq in March 2004, the agency said.

The bogus e-mails resemble the so-called “Nigerian letter.” In that persistent scam, victims are presented with an opportunity to receive nonexistent government money, often from the

“Government of Nigeria,” as long as they pay a fee often characterized as a bribe to that government.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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