Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Scammers With A Death Wish

By Coenraad De Beer

Scammers come up with the craziest ideas these days. It is hard to believe that people still fall for the ridiculous e-mail scams in circulation all over the web. It is even harder to comprehend how scammers think they are going to swindle people into believing their devious lies and unbelievable stories. Unfortunately, online scams are a harsh reality. On the one side you have innocent, uninformed victims walking into the traps of merciless con artists and on the other side you have scammers following a "shoot in the dark with a shotgun" approach to claim as many victims as possible.

Online fraud is a serious matter, but you can't help laughing at the creative, yet ridiculous ideas of online scammers. Last month I received a link exchange request from someone running a password recovery website providing a password recovery service for people who lost their e-mail account password. The only problem is that they hack e-mail accounts without confirming the real owner of the e-mail account. The other absurdity is that you can normally contact your service provider when you loose your password and don't need a password recovery service if you are the real owner of the e-mail account. Sometimes I wonder whether cyber criminals have any brain cells between their ears or whether they are simply looking for attention. It is even more absurd, even hilarious, when they are trying to scam anti-fraud activists and cyber law enforcement agencies. I know that many of these scam e-mails are sent in bulk by spam bots and the spammers never really know who receive their junk e-mails, but some scammers make it just too easy for cyber law enforcement agencies to track them down.

It is not odd for one person to receive several phishing scams on a single day, each one pretending to come from a different bank or financial institution. The best of all is the fact that these phishing scams are carbon copies of each other, the only difference in each e-mail is the logo and trading name of the financial institution. Scammers discredit their fellow scammers by sending similar e-mails on the same day to the same recipient. If I receive a phishing scam from a bank, of which I'm not even a client, I will most definitely not respond to a similar e-mail, received on the same day, using exactly the same message, even if I am a client of this institution. If everyone starts to read their e-mails more carefully and in detail, you will soon see the ordinary e-mail user being able to identify a scam just by looking at the pattern, words, techniques, formatting and writing style used by many scammers.

One of the latest schemes used by 419 scammers is the Law Enforcement Agency scam. 419 scammers seem to be less successful with their usual e-mail scams, most probably because of what I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Lottery scams, company representative scams, scams involving war victims, cancer victims, plane crash victims, you name it, have flooded our mailboxes so much that we can smell these scams a mile a way just by reading the subject line. Unfortunately you still get people who are unaware of these threats and 419 scammers usually claim victims among these people. The Law Enforcement Agency scam involves 419 scammers trying to swindle previous victims of these scams. The "agency" allegedly apprehended a group of fraudsters and recovered millions of "pounds sterling" stolen from innocent victims. (I wonder why they haven't recovered any dollars). These funds will then be disbursed to victims filing a claim with this "agency". Victims need to supply loads of personal details as well as the amount of money stolen from them. The scammers claim that the victim will not spend any money until the cheque (notice a cheque and not a secure electronic transfer) is issued to him/her. Just ask yourself, why the need to pay money to reclaim something that was lawfully yours? Do the scammers honestly believe that people will fall for a lousy scam like this? People desperate enough to get their stolen money back will most certainly walk into this trap and spend more money only to loose more money and scammers are bargaining on this. Luckily you get people who learn from their mistakes and will never make the same mistake twice, so the scammers can forget to scam vigilant people who already experienced the trauma of loosing a lot of money to empty promises from a total stranger.

Scammers from Nigeria have tried to become partners of cyber security agencies in an attempt to infiltrate and destroy anti-fraud organisations from the inside. Online scammers have become nut cases, fanatics, digital suicide bombers and kamikazes, trying every trick in the book (and some stupid tricks of their own) to reach their idiotic goals. It is just sad that they continue to claim victims with their amateurish schemes. Perhaps these scams are so amateurish that people struggle to see through them. It is a case of horribly underestimating your enemy, the worst part being unable to identify your enemy, even worse, not even realising that your are dealing with an evil opposing force.

About the Author
Coenraad is webmaster and founder of Cyber Top Cops, leaders in Internet security, prevention of online fraud and educating users about online scams and malicious software. Visit our Hoaxes, Spams and Scams Section and educate yourself with real life examples of online fraud.

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