BOOT CAMP 374 (24/04/05)

Top Ten Internet Scams, part 1


It is hard to imagine how we ever managed without the Internet but you’ll need no reminding that it has a darker side. Over the next two weeks we are highlighting some of the many scams and swindles pouring into your email inbox, which blight this otherwise incredibly useful resource.



Named after section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code this is one of the oldest on-line frauds and continues to be a major nuisance. It starts with an email message promising the recipient a substantial share of a multi-million dollar bank account held by a deceased overseas dignitary or businessman. There are many variations but the general idea is that you act as an intermediary and pay a substantial ‘Advance Fee’ or ‘Transfer Tax’ to a bank official, to help move the money out of the country and into your bank account whereupon you will be entitled to a 10 to 20pc share. Needless to say the person mentioned and the funds do not exist and if you are foolish enough to part with any money you will never see it again.


Don’t waste your time reading them just click delete as soon as they arrive. However, the problem is unlikely to go away as long as a small number of people, whether through greed or pity, fall for it. The criminals responsible operate outside of the UK and frequently change email addresses and identities but a small and determined group of people are fighting back. They call themselves ‘Scambaiters’ and they have effectively turned the tables on the 419 fraudsters, by responding to their emails and stringing them along, often with hilarious and sometimes even profitable results. You can read all about it at:




This has to be one of the sickest scams currently doing the rounds and is a variant on the 419 fraud. The email claims to come from a bank official acting for relatives of wealthy victims of the recent Asian Tsunami and asks for help to transfer a large sum held in an overseas bank account. The message might look genuine, it may even contain bank account details, authentic looking references or heart-wrenching stories but rest assured it is a crude con. Add the sender’s address to your ‘block list’ and bin it immediately. If you want to contribute to the relief effort there are plenty of legitimate methods, including the official UK Disaster Emergencies Committee at:




Cashback fraud emails are often sent to people selling high value goods on Internet auction sites like ebay or through advertisements in magazines and newspapers. The seller receives a very generous offer by email to buy the item, on the basis that the purchaser lives abroad and the extra money is to cover the shipping costs, which later turn out to be a lot less than expected. Alternatively the cheque or banker’s draft, when it arrives, is for a significantly larger amount than agreed. The buyer says it was a mistake and asks the seller to send the difference to them as soon as possible by wire transfer. The seller cashes the cheque or draft and after a few days it apparently clears so they send the goods and surplus monies to the purchaser. A week or two later the bank declares the cheque or draft to be stolen or a forgery and wants its money back. This one is easy to avoid. Never accept suspiciously high offers for goods you are selling, especially from overseas buyers, and never despatch the item until the bank has provided cast iron confirmation -- preferably in writing -- that the funds have completely cleared.




Congratulations, you have won thousands of dollars or euros in a lottery! Although you haven’t bought a ticket the message says you’ve won as a result of a ballot of email addresses and there’s a small fortune waiting for you to collect. All you have to do is send off a ‘clearance’ or ‘handling’ fee, or forward your bank account details, and it’s all yours... Remarkably hundreds of normally rational people each year are taken in by this very obvious fiddle and send money, never to receive their promised riches, or they find their bank account has been plundered. You can safely delete or set up a ‘Rule’ to handle any messages containing the words ‘lotto’ or ‘winnings’ in the subject line.




Chain letters are as old as the hills and it’s no surprise they have migrated to the faster and more efficient form of distribution by email. You will not get rich or even moderately wealthy by sending money to people on the list. Bill Gates, Pepsi and AOL have no intention of sharing their millions with you nor will breaking the chain bring you bad luck. Moreover the chances of your participation helping a cancer sufferer or other unfortunates -- even assuming they exist -- is frankly nil, so delete and forget.


Next Week -- Internet Scams, part 2





A facility in most anti-spam programs to automatically delete email from nominated email addresses



A feature in Outlook Express for deleting or moving emails to a specified folder in response to keywords in the subject line, address box or message body



A fast way of sending money overseas from high-street shops and newsagents to various parts of the world. Unfortunately once the money has been collected at the other end there’s usually no way of getting it back




Scam emails of the type we’ve looked at this week are usually very easy to identify and the first and most obvious give-away is that someone you don’t know is offering you something that you have not asked for. If you have any doubts don’t open it but check the address it has been sent from. In Outlook Express right-click the email message in your Inbox, select Properties then the Details tab and click the Message Source button. It will almost certainly be from an unknown or anonymous source. Check also your own details, quite often the address is wrong or it’s not specifically addressed to you by name. Delete the message immediately if it contains any attachments but if you feel the urge to read it you will notice that bank and lottery ‘officials’ and overseas royalty are not noted for their spelling and grammar or command of the English language…

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