MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota parents are getting a frightening email in their inboxes.  It says there is sex offender activity in their area, and offers resources to protect them against sexual predators.

The emails aren’t true, but they are bringing a whole different kind of danger into people’s homes.

When you look closely at the email, you’ll see some grammatical errors but for the most part, it looks legitimate. And that’s the problem.

An innocent face that put fear in many a Minnesota parent, young Jacob Wetterling, abducted in 1989, missing to this day. Six weeks later, a boy named Jared was kidnapped from Cold Spring and sexually assaulted. They are just a few of the cases causing parents reason to cringe.

Mark Lanterman is a father of nine.

“Our primary job as parents is to protect these little people that we created,” Lanterman said.

He recently got an email that would strike fear in any parent.

“There’s an offender living near you,” it reads.

Because of his background in computer forensics, he didn’t click on the links but it looks real.

“I believe most parents, if they received this notification that a registered sex offender was moving into there are and here’s a link telling me who they are and what they’re doing to protect my family I think most of us would click on this,” Lanterman said.

The links list legitimate websites, but if you click, they don’t go to those sites. They infect your computer and steal your passwords and financial information.

“These hackers, they’re not stupid and they know what people will click on,” Lanterman said.

It’s a detailed warning of crime that’s a crime in itself.

“Think before you click, people are trying to trick you,” Lanterman said.

If a sex offender lives in your area, officers will notify you with a flier at your door. They may email that to a crime group, but would not email you directly. If you get any email from a government agency no matter how real it looks, call the agency before clicking on a link. Because if you click, there’s no going back.

The IP address traces to China, but that could easily be fake. It’s not clear who is doing this, but as you can see it’s specifically aimed at Minnesota parents.

Here is more information from the Department of Corrections Offender Search page.

“Unfortunately, criminals sometimes use the names and logos of trusted organizations to try to victimize people. This is an example of that type of criminal activity,” Jill Oliviera with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said. “The BCA urges the public to avoid clicking on emails or links from senders with whom you did not initiate the contact. And when in doubt, delete the email or pick up the phone and call the supposed sender to verify. Do so using a number that doesn’t appear in the email.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield