The U.S. Justice Department is acknowledging it perpetrated a hoax on its own employees to see if they were gullible enough to divulge personal information over the Internet.
The department sent a hoax e-mail promising a bailout to employees whose government retirement accounts lost more than 30 percent due to stock market declines. The bogus offer directed employees to a Web site that required they plug in account information.
The hoax was revealed by an administrator Wednesday after triggering a wave of anxiety among department employees.
A department spokeswoman said the hoax was part of regular computer testing.
It's unclear who authored and approved the hoax. About 300 employees received the bogus offer, but it's not known how many fell for it and how many were aware it was sent by their employer.
People in San Diego received an e-mail warning them about the hoax.