Email scammers used to rely above all on the good faith of their victims – now they’re turning to much more ruthless methods.
Heard the recent one about the Nigerian astronaut Major Abacha Tunde needing $3 million urgently? Since 1990 he’s been left stranded alone on a secret Russian space station, the Salyut 8T. A generous reward is of course waiting for those who are willing to help. Nowadays, though, a simple email like this with a made-up story won’t work any longer. Most people now know that there’s no quick buck to be made from helping alleged members of deposed African royal families. Despite this, many internet users are still falling for these scams. It’s no wonder really as the scammers are getting smarter at their game – and the damage caused is immense.
Old scams that people still fall for
Almost everyone will have heard about the Nigeria connection and their emails. But what many don’t know is that this little number, promising easy money in return for an upfront payment, has been doing the rounds for over 40 years. First came letters with headings such as “business proposal”, then came faxes, and for several years now they’ve been arriving by email. They all say pretty much the same thing: The recipient just needs to wire some money to get in on the lucrative business action. It’s clear that anyone who falls for this never sees their money again. What is generally referred to simply as a “scam” refers to an advance-fee scam, where the recipients are persuaded into making advance payments under false pretenses. Curious payment requests, highly paid job offers, titillating attempts to make contact: The imagination of the scammer to invent makeshift stories and thus arouse the greed of the recipient is staggering.
Ever more personal
The crooks are becoming ever-more targeted. This has been proven by a current study by the US company Palo Alto Networks. As part of its studies, the security experts spent two years monitoring the servers of around 100 suspected email scammers. “The Nigerian scammers are now much more cunning”, said Ryan Olson from Palo Alto Networks. “They’re no longer launching mass attacks on random email accounts, but picking out specific victims.” They prefer those who are either rich or hoard important information. The cyber criminals lead the recipients to believe that they are credible – such as by using the name of family members or work colleagues. This method of “spear phishing” raises the chances of success for the internet rogues enormously, and also increases the likelihood that the victim will reveal personal details such as passwords or click infected attachments. The use of these types of malware in attachments is also new. Through this, the attacker attempts to take control of the PC – for one thing to obtain even more private info or, even better, to get direct access to credit cards or PayPal/bank accounts.
5 malicious scams
Although most scam emails are, with a dose of common sense, easy to tell are cons, new forms are constantly pulling people in. The following list shows which scam attacks have recently caused a frenzy.
1. The love trap
Singletons who are looking for love seem to be particularly susceptible to scamming. Otherwise, how else could you explain the fact that criminals repeatedly manage to rip off singles on dating sites. The scam usually goes something like this: A really attractive member absolutely must visit the victim – they just need the money for the trip as their wallet’s been stolen, of course… Only once the money starts flowing can the visit happen.
2. Enticing job offers
Despite record levels of employment, not everyone has a job. And even if you do have one, it’s tough trying to turn down an easy job with a top package. While that may be the case, the alarm bells really should be ringing if you’re being asked to shell out for juicy handling fees and/or training before you even get your first whiff of a paycheck.
Often, cybercriminals promise to wire money to the recipient from alleged insurance payouts, tax refunds, or a big inheritance. For the money to be transferred to the recipient’s account, a “processing fee” is expected here too. There really is no need to say this, but the promised amount never arrives.
4. Unsolicited vacation greetings
Messages are most credible when they come from friends and acquaintances. This is why cyber criminals like to hack email accounts and send messages to the contacts stored in them. A popular ploy is to trick the recipient into believing the person they know has money problems like “I’m on vacation, I’ve been robbed, and I’ve got no money for the return flight”. In these cases, it seems that the last thing most people will do is reach for the phone first. Otherwise, how else can the success of this scam be explained?!
5. Tempting real estate
To many, a chic, affordable apartment in a popular downtown location is like winning the lottery. The huge demand for affordable housing is also benefiting internet scammers. They lure you in with a vacant rental apartment on fantastic terms. There’s just one hitch: The alleged landlord is abroad and suggests wiring the initial rent payment plus the deposit to an escrow account in return for the key. Just like all scam stories, the moral of the story is: It’s a complete waste of time and effort.