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LinkedIn falls foul to 419 frauds

Sophos : 22 May, 2008  (Technical Article)
Users of LinkedIn networking site are being warned of an increase in the use of the site by criminals using the 419 money laundering fraud.
IT security and control firm, Sophos, is warning workers of the dangers of connecting with people they don't know via the business networking website LinkedIn. The advice follows the discovery that advanced fee fraud scammers are using the site to try and find potential victims.

Advanced fee fraud, also known as 419 scams after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code, are a common sight in many computer users' email inboxes. Typically, they claim to offer a small fortune in the form of a lottery win or inheritance, in exchange for an individual's banking details or payment of a 'handling charge'. Due to increasingly sophisticated anti-spam defences at the email gateway, fraudsters have now turned to sites like LinkedIn to try and lay traps for unwary business workers.

Earlier this week, a 419 Scam was sent via the LinkedIn website claiming to come from a 22-year-old woman living on the Ivory Coast, who had inherited USD 6.5 million from her deceased father.

Part of the message reads:

'Before the death of my father on the 12th December 2007, in a private hospital here in Abidjan, he called me secretly to his bed side and told me that he kept a sum of USD 6.500 000 (six million five hundred thousand United States Dollars) in a bank in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. He used my name as the next of kin in deposit of the fund. He also explained to me that it was because of this money he was poisoned by his business partner, and that I should seek for foreign partner in a country of my choice where I would transfer this money and use it for investment purpose.'

The message goes on to request bank account information, and implore the recipient and potential victim to reply to a Yahoo! email address within seven days.'

'419 scammers may be hoping that the typical professional on LinkedIn may have more disposable income than the archetypal MySpace or Facebook user, and is potentially a bigger catch,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. 'Web 2.0 sites like LinkedIn and Facebook give strangers the ability to contact you, without the defensive umbrella of your corporate anti-spam filter. Computer users should be on their guard against any unsolicited email as it could be from a cyber con man.'

Sophos experts recommend that LinkedIn users who wish to reduce the chances of receiving spam change their communications settings on the site.

'LinkedIn provides the ability to prevent people from sending you an invitation to connect unless they know your email address or appear in your 'other contacts' list,' explained Cluley. 'That should cut out a lot of the junk mail arriving at your LinkedIn account and defend against scams such as this one."

Sophos recommends that all computer users ensure their computer security is up to date and that they are fully protected against the latest spam, email and web threats.
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