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Latest 419 scam takes more plausible appeal

Sophos : 09 October, 2007  (Technical Article)
Appeal to animal lovers to rescue distressed puppy is the latest variant of the well-established Nigerian based 419 scam e-mails.
IT security and control firm Sophos has reminded computer users of the danger of email scams following an attempted financial fraud which posed as a communication from a Christian couple offering their puppy up for adoption.

The emails, which come from a husband and wife who claim to be on a Christian Mission in Africa, say that their Yorkshire Terrier dog is not coping well in the hot weather.

Part of the email, which includes contact phone numbers in Nigeria, reads:

'I and my Husband have now decided to give her out on Adoptioto [sic] someone that can give her a good home and take very good care of her. She's a very loving puppy, she will be a good companion. If you know you can take very good care of her do send me a reply back through my email address below or you can give me a call so we can discuss on phone.'

'Most of us are probably all too familiar with the scam emails which claim you have inherited millions of dollars, or won the lottery, but this time the scammers are deliberately pulling on the heartstrings of animal lovers,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. 'The criminals are offering the pet puppy in an attempt to gather information from kind-hearted people who jump in to help. If you respond, the scammers will try and steal confidential information about you, or sting you for cash, and ultimately you'll be the one ending up in the doghouse.'

These email con-tricks, known as 419 scams, are named after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code where many of them originated and are unsolicited emails where the author typically offers a large amount of money. Once a victim has been drawn in, requests are made from the fraudster for private information which may lead to requests for money, stolen identities, and financial theft.

Other examples of 419 email scams include a message claiming to come from a persecuted widow of the late Nigerian head of state, an associate of the massacred Nepalese royal family, and even an African astronaut stranded on the Mir spacestation.

Earlier this year Sophos reported how a former treasurer of Alcona County, Michigan, had been arrested after allegedly investing more than $1.2 million of county funds in Nigerian fraud scams.

Sophos recommends companies protect their desktops, servers and gateways with a consolidated solution to thwart the threats of viruses, spyware, phishing, hackers and spam.

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