Financial crisis calls for more creativity

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Nigeria and email schemes…419 scams and inboxes…these things just go hand-in-hand. After so many variations of the same old tricks, today’s schemers find that people are becoming a little more protective of their assets…assets that may have begun to dwindle due to the global financial crisis.

Commtouch partner, Cyberoam, recently reported on an intricate conference and hotel reservation scam that was so complex, it seemed almost believable.

According to the report:

Cyberoam had initially responded to an email by “Global Aid Organization (G.A.O.)”, a purportedly Washington DC, USA-based charity that was to schedule a worldwide conference on human trafficking in Dakar, Senegal between 24th-27th August, 2009. No such organization could be traced by search engines even though the email contained what appeared to be a legitimate website. The email IP address was subsequently traced to Dakar, Senegal instead of Washington DC.

In order to lure recipients, the senders scheduled a free initial conference in USA between 17th-20th August, 2009 supposedly with round trip air tickets, meals and accommodation.

The details go deeper and deeper and included requests for passport information, photos and promises of help applying for a visa to the US for a conference. A scam this intricate seems much more believable than the king of some far off land leaving $5 million to Joe Shmo in central Idaho. People DO fall for those scams…they have been falling for them for decades. The trend began as postal letters and eventually morphed into email.

This global financial crisis, however, has in some ways made Americans an easier target for these scammers. Strapped for cash, a really clever scheme could entice the unknowing. According to this Washington Post report:

U.S. authorities say Americans — the easiest prey, according to Nigerian scammers — lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year to cybercrimes, including a scheme known as the Nigerian 419 fraud, named for a section of the Nigerian criminal code. Now financially squeezed, Americans succumb even more easily to offers of riches, experts say.

At Commtouch, we see 419 schemes of all flavors every single day. One of the more creative examples is this recent message that appears to be from the FBI. In the message, the FBI agent explains to the recipient that he or she has been targeted for a 419 scheme and that the FBI can actually help ensure the retrieval of funds. Someone who may have fallen for the original scheme could easily fall for the FBI scheme as well…because Big Brother is always watching…and wanting to help. No?

Here is a sample of the FBI scam:

Sample FBI 419 scheme email

The moral of the story is that if you didn’t buy a lottery ticket…you didn’t win a lottery in a foreign country. Royalty from random countries will not leave their estates to you. Emails requesting ANY identifying information in exchange for prizes or money…are usually fake.

The 419 scammers will continue to try and advanced messaging technology like Commtouch will continue to try and be smarter than them…so that Joe Shmo in central Idaho doesn’t have to be.

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