If it’s in the News – Watch for an Email Scam

image If an event is newsworthy, you can be sure cybercriminals are exploiting it to their own advantage. Cybercriminals have jumped (as expected), on the earthquake tragedy in Haiti, and are already exploiting this sad event.

Cybercriminals are experts at exploiting our curiosity surrounding current events, and by focusing on this aspect of social engineering, they are increasingly creating opportunities designed to drop malicious code on our computers. Most of this activity is designed to separate unwitting victims from their money.

Cybercriminals can be much more direct though (without attempting to compromise your computer), in their attempts to separate you from your money.

Even though the the majority of seasoned computer users (I suspect), are familiar with the infamous “419” or advance fee fraud scam, in which the victim is encouraged to sent money to the scammer, with the promise they will realize a significant gain, this type of scam is every bit as popular as ever.

Earlier today, Symantec Hosted Services alerted me to a new “419” scam they have just become aware of. An email claiming to be from Hassan Ali Abdul Mutallab, the brother of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who allegedly attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day, is the scam vehicle .


The scammer, supposedly Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s brother, claims he is looking for a “Muslim brother/sister” to help retrieve funds belonging to the alleged bomber. But, as Symantec  stated in their alert, “before the non-existent money can be released, various increasingly inventive fees and charges have to be paid. These fees continue until the victim of the scam eventually realizes that they have no chance of getting any money, and gives up. Victims are often too embarrassed to contact police, and the scammers continue”.

Every day, I receive 10/15 of this type of scam in my “Honey Pot” email account. Here’s just one example from today.

Honey pot

How gullible can people be? When Michael Jackson died, I wrote a piece entitled “Hey Sucker – Read This! Michael Jackson’s Not Dead!”, simply as a test of “curiosity exploitation”.

The results that followed were astonishing – within days, this article was getting 1,000’s of daily hits. Even today, this nonsensical article continues to get hits. Talk about gullible people!

Save yourself from being victimized by scareware, or other malware, and review the following actions you can take to protect your Internet connected computer system:

    • When surfing the web – Stop. Think. Click
    • Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite), which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.
    • Don’t open unknown email attachments
    • Don’t run programs of unknown origin
    • Disable hidden filename extensions
    • Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
    • Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
    • Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
    • Disable scripting features in email programs
    • Make regular backups of critical data
    • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
    • Turn off file and printer sharing on your computer.
    • Install a personal firewall on your computer.
    • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.
    • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

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    Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

    4 responses to “If it’s in the News – Watch for an Email Scam

    1. Ahmed Helmi

      this is very helpfull article bill iremmber getting scam emails before and ijust delete them. is there is anyway to stop getting these scam emails?

      • Bill Mullins

        Hi Ahmed,

        There’s no effective way to stop the spammers from spamming you. Once they have you’re email address, that’s it. You’re doing the right thing of course, by simply deleting spam, since opening a spam email will confirm for the spammer, that the email address is “live”. Unfortunately, spam is one of the prices we have to pay for the Internet. It’s not fair – but that’s the way it is.


    2. Pingback: If it's in the News – Watch for an Email Scam « Bill Mullins … | Drakz Free Online Service

    3. zamroed

      thanks for this great resources