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News

Advance Fee Fraud Hits US and UK

BitDefender UK : 16 August, 2012  (Technical Article)
Bitdefender is warning of a new wave of an old fraud campaign in which victims are duped into sending cash or revealing sensitive personal information
Advance Fee Fraud Hits US and UK

Bitdefender has warned of the existence of a new Nigerian scam campaign aimed mainly at UK citizens to defraud them into handing large sums of money to strangers. Having “Nigerian” in the name doesn’t necessarily mean all such attacks have something to do with the Nigerian people or country. In fact, USA and UK proved to be the two main originators of such money cons while Nigeria only comes in third. This explains why most victims of such scams are from Great Britain and the United States of America.

The story’s main character is Mrs Garhi Hassenin, widow to the late Garhi Hassenin who died in the Egypt Air flight 990 crash, who needs the victim’s help to give away her husband’s deposit to charity. To create an authentic context, the e-mail from the person claiming to be Mrs Hassenin includes a link to a report of the tragic incident involving Egypt Air flight 990 on BBC News Online. ‘Mrs Hassenin’ demands honesty from the recipient of her letter claiming that she cannot handle this charity work personally because of a serious health problem.

To ensure the recipient will have his share of the money, the widow asks recipients to send “personal information to enable [her] to inform the fund manager to process the release of the deposit to [the recipient]”. A phone number is also required. Harvesting personal sensitive data is the first step in a more elaborate scam. The victim hands over identification data, account info and a phone number which would be enough for the attacker to impersonate the victim and access his account and money.

Another Nigerian-type scam that targets UK web users has also been identified, which features an e-mail sent by someone pretending to be a buyer. The sample Bitdefender detected is about a person who agrees to purchase a car sold by someone in Hull, UK. To prove his good intentions, the scammer offers fake evidence of a money transfer. He asks the seller to do the same and requests the evidence of a £3,000 deposit through a Western Union service that enables a person-to-person direct transfer.

Since Western Union only allows people to withdraw money using an ID or a transaction number, it is clear the scammer-buyer uses social engineering to obtain the victim-seller’s transaction number to steal the £3,000 deposit. The buyer is unlikely to set foot in Great Britain to get the car and pay in cash as implied in the e-mail exchange. Once the £3,000 deposit is made, the money is gone - and so is the alleged buyer.

“The Nigerian scam is an ‘advance fee fraud’ that defrauds the victim usually of a large sum of money. This scam takes a wide variety of forms and, despite being around for decades, it resurfaces periodically, still able to con,” said Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. “Other popular storylines used in these money cons are the fake lottery win; the dead foreign representative; the murdered businessman; the dying rich merchant; diplomatic delivery; immigration; and jobs in a foreign country.”
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