Category Archives: internet scams

URL Shortening Sites Target Email Weakness

imageSites like Tinyurl.com and Bitly.com are the go-to places for Tweeters who do not want long URLs to eat up their typing space. However, shortened URLs have a second, more insidious use. They allow spammers and hackers past the old email filters and into your inbox.

Most email anti-spam engines were created before the use of embedded URLs in emails, not to mention shortened ones. Most anti-spam programs try to trace back the URL to see if the site is dangerous. However, a shortened URL can be used by hackers two ways.

The first way is simple. They plug the site they want you to get directed to into one of the known and trusted URL shortening sites available for free to the public. Because the URL shortening site is trusted, the link is trusted. However, the link does not take you to the URL shortening site; it takes you where it was originally directed.

Secondly, hackers get even more creative. Once the anti-spam filters get around the URL shortening sites, as some have done, hackers create their own URL shortening sites. Essentially, they shorten a site that’s already shortened. So, when you click on the link, you get redirected not once, but twice. The first redirection is safe, the next is a hackers.

This was “yet another example” of cyber-criminals adopting new technology to bypass traditional security measures, said Bradley Anstis, vice-president of technical strategy at M86.

“A lot of the traditional anti-spam engines were developed before Twitter, so they are not geared up to recognize embedded URLs as seen in blended email threats in spam, let alone shortened URLs that link to malicious, or compromised Web pages,” Anstis said.

Some frightening statistics:

In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).
The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April. (From Net-security.org)

So, what can you do to protect yourself? For one, never click on an email link if you do not trust the sender. Two, even if you do trust the sender, try to get to the link organically, meaning follow the normal method. If you are checking on a shipment, go through the main website instead of clicking on the link. These simple tricks will help to keep your computer and information safe from hackers.

Author Bio

This Guest post is by Christine Kane from internet service providers. She is a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects for different blogs. She can be reached via email at: Christi.Kane00 @ gmail.com.

Update:

Here’s a super tip from anarchy4ever – “Some people may call me paranoid but I NEVER click on shortened url links. People should use url enlarger sites such as this one:
http://url-enlarger.appspot.com/

Just a personal observation – anarchy4ever is far from being paranoid – sounds like a very sensible solution.

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Filed under cybercrime, Email, Guest Writers, Hackers, internet scams, Twitter

PC Tools Exposes “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Cyber Threat

imageThe waiting game is almost over for Harry Potter fans who are hungry to feast their eyes on the much-anticipated final chapter in the Harry Potter franchise – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

There are always those of course who won’t wait – in this case until July 15. You know the type – the buttinskis who push ahead of you in line, or cut you off on the expressway – the ones you’d like to clunk upside the head.

Unfortunately, the obnoxious dimwits who behave in this way, tend to repeat this behavior across a broad range of personal activity, and I suspect, that the niceties of copyright law is well below their personal radar horizon.

The reigning experts in social engineering – cybercriminals (who, in my view, could teach “legitimate social engineering experts” a thing or two), are well aware of the “can’t wait buttinskis”, and in a perfect replay of the old “there’s no honor amongst thieves”, have made available through free torrent downloads –Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, except

ExceptPC Tools, the company which brings you PC Tools Firewall Plus (free), ThreatFire (free), and of course a complete line of award-winning commercial grade security offerings, has discovered that these free torrent downloads are nothing more than a new online malicious scam. Gotta admit – I love Karma payback!

I’m posting the bulletin PC Tools sent me yesterday on this, since it’s very instructive in terms of just how much effort cybercriminals will go through, in order to penetrate a target’s computer.

It’s not often possible to capture an online attack as it occurs, but in this case, PC Tools managed to do just that – see images and links listed below.

Here’s how the malicious scam works:

  • First, a user searches torrents for free downloads of the final Harry Potter movie
  • Results claiming to offer a free download of the new movie appear
  • Once users download the file, .RAR file and password.txt downloads appear
  • Users receive a message saying, “This video is password protected to stop automated leeching and detection. To get your password, please visit:
  • Here, users are taken through a series of instructions to obtain their password.

One of which is choosing a link for a special offer while the site “verifies” the password

  • Once users click on an offer, a new tab and pop-up open, asking users to save what seems to be a legitimate file
  • After saving the file, cybercriminals have access to your computer—and the movie, of course, never appears on the screen

Harry Potter Threat  Exposed

Here’s what victims find while searching for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie or videos:

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Users can discover apparently ripped versions of the new Harry Potter movie on file-sharing websites.

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It looks like the movie is being downloaded on the victim’s computer.

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The victim is instructed to decompress the archive.

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RAR and password.txt files suddenly appear.

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User is told to visit separate website by password.txt file.

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The victim then sees this screenshot, claiming to be MovieYT.com.

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User follows 3-step instructions, which takes them to a verification code check.

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User clicks on VLC Player and a new tab is opened.

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When hovering over the download button, the download executable file looks real.

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Once the user clicks on the file, they are prompted to save it – this, of course, contains malware.

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While all this is happening, the user is still waiting for the “Verification Check” from MovieYT – but the cybercriminals now have access to the victim’s computer. They have your password and other personal information that they can use to further attack you, your finances, your friends and social networks.

Worth repeating: Consider the trade-offs, and the very real risks involved with Peer to Peer and Torrent applications.

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share. So be sure to setup the file-sharing software very carefully.

If you don’t check the proper settings when you install the software, you could allow access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, such as your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, and other personal and financial documents.

It’s extremely important to be aware of the files that you place in, or download to, your shared folder. Don’t put information in your shared folder that you don’t want to share with others. Your shared folder is the folder that is shared automatically with others on peer to peer file sharing networks.

Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues. Copyright infringement can result in significant monetary damages, fines, and even criminal penalties.

Some statistics suggest as many as 70% of young people between the ages of 9 – 14, regularly download copyrighted digital music. If you are a parent, you bear the ultimate responsibility for this illegal activity.

Adult Content: Again, if you are a parent you may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them. It’s not unusual for other peoples’ files to be mislabeled and you or your children can unintentionally download these files.

Spyware: There’s a good chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. Spyware monitors a user’s browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Frequently the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected and forwarded to these third parties.

I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove. Before you use any file-sharing program, you should buy, or download free software, that can help prevent the downloading or installation of spyware, or help to detect it on your hard drive if it has been installed.

Viruses: Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program.

Generally, your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files. While downloading, you should avoid files with extensions such as .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.

Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk. Be sure to turn off this feature in the programs “preferences” setting.

What’s more, some file-sharing programs automatically run every time you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you should adjust the file-sharing program’s controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically starting.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, PC Tools, Peer to Peer, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Scareware Is Everywhere – As Mac Users Just Found Out

The success cyber criminals have had with the recent Mac scareware attack (MacDefender, which has already morphed into a new variant – MacGuard), emphasizes the following point – given the opportunity, Mac users may be just as likely as Windows users to say “Yes” to an invitation to download a rogue security application.

Considering Apple’s marketing style, which reinforces the myth that Macs are inherently more resistant to malware infections than Windows PCs (bolstered by the cachet that Mac users are somehow smarter than PC users), I suspect that Mac users are in for a rough ride in the coming months. Undoubtedly, Mac users will learn that cyber criminals use of social engineering is not platform specific.

Hopefully, this reality check will put a stop to nonsensical forum comments like the following.

“Well this is why I’m glad to have a Mac just saying”

“If Windows didn’t exist these things wouldn’t happen to people”

Since myths tend to die a slow and painful death however, I somehow doubt it.

Early last year, I posted an article – Say “Yes” on the Internet and Malware’s Gotcha! – which pointed out the potential consequences to those Internet users who instinctively, and unthinkingly, click on “Yes” or “OK”. Given the unprecedented rise in the number of malicious scareware applications in the interim (often, but not exclusively, promoted through poisoned Google search results), that article is worth reposting.

The following is an edited version of that earlier article.

It's not my fault Virtually every computer user, at both the home user level (my friends), and at the corporate level, whom I come into contact with, tends to downplay personal responsibility for a malware infection.

I hear a lot of – “I don’t know what happened”; “it must have been one of the kids”; “all I did was download a free app that told me I was infected”; “no, I never visit porn sites” or, Bart Simpson’s famous line “it wasn’t me”. Sort of like “the dog ate my homework”, response. But we old timers, (sorry, seasoned pros), know the reality is somewhat different, and here’s why.

Cybercriminals overwhelmingly rely on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots, on Internet connected computers.

In other words, cybercriminals rely on the user/potential victim saying – “YES”.

Yes to:

Downloading that security app that told you your machine was infected. Thereby, infecting your computer with a rogue security application.

Opening that email attachment despite the fact it has a .exe .vbs, or .lnk.extension, virtually guaranteeing an infection.

Downloading that media player codec to play a  porno clip, which still won’t play, but your computer is now infected.

Clicking on links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context, or are composed of only general text, which will result in your computer becoming part of a botnet.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable. Software that may contain a Browser Hijacker as part of the payload.

Opening email attachments from people you don’t know. At a minimum, you will now get inundated with Spam mail which will increase the changes of a malware infection.

There are many more opportunities for you to say “yes”, while connected to the Internet, but those listed above are some of the the most common.

The Internet is full of traps for the unwary – that’s a sad fact, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Cyber criminals are winning this game, and unless you learn to say “NO”, it’s only a matter of time until you have to deal with a malware infected machine.

Here’s an example of a rogue security application getting ready to pounce. A progressively more common occurrence on the Internet.

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I can’t say this often enough. Ensure you have adequate knowledge to protect yourself and stay ahead of the cybercrime curve. Make a commitment to acquire the knowledge necessary to ensure your personal safety on the Internet. In a word, become  “educated”.

If you lack this knowledge the answer is simple – you can get it. The Internet is loaded with sites (including this one), dedicated to educating computer users on computer security – including providing application reviews, and links to appropriate security software solutions.

It’s important to be aware however, that security applications alone, will not ensure your safety on the Internet. You really do need to become proactive to your Internet safety and security. And that does mean becoming educated.

Internet users who are aware of significant changes in the Internet security landscape, will react accordingly. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that you can’t fix stupid.

Before you say “yes”

Stop – consider where you’re action might lead

Think – consider the consequences to your security

Click – only after making an educated decision to proceed

Consider this from Robert Brault:

“The ultimate folly is to think that something crucial to your welfare is being taken care of for you”.

I’ll put it more bluntly – If you get a malware infection; it’s virtually certain it’s your fault. You might think – here’s this smug, cynical guy, sitting in his office, pointing undeserved critical fingers. Don’t believe it.

If users followed advice posted here, and advice from other security pros, and high level users, the Internet could be a vastly different experience for many. At the very least, we might have half a chance of dealing more effectively with the cybercriminal element. To this point, we’re losing rather magnificently.

Computer users would be vastly better off if they considered Internet security advice, as a form of inoculation. It’s a relatively painless way to develop immunization. While inoculations can be mildly painful, the alternative can be a very painful experience.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Mac, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, scareware, Windows Tips and Tools

Kate Middleton Scam – Working Like A Charm!

imageIf you’re a regular reader here, I don’t have to belabor the point and remind you, that significant numbers of Internet users are often unaware of the very real dangers that search engine results hold for their safety, security and identity.    You’re well aware that many are blissfully unaware of the hidden dangers on the Internet, and seem to have a natural tendency to “just click”.

Here’s a perfect example.

Several days ago, I posted an article – Kate Middleton Nude – As If! – knowing full well, that the article would draw scores of careless users to it – all looking for a titillating experience. A perfect opportunity to teach an Internet safety lesson. I wasn’t disappointed, as the following screen shot of search engine stats from this site, illustrates.

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Hundreds of additional search terms (too many to show), included – catherine middleton nude, kate middleton revealing pictures, william and kate nude, kate middleton naked, kate middleton naughty photos, a picture of kate meddliston naked, kate middleton sextape ……..”kate middleton” nude or breast or bikini – I think you get the picture.

By the end of the day, yesterday – 2,000+ potential victims visited this post…

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and an additional 900+ so far, today.

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All of this reminds me of an article I wrote in July 2009 – Hey Sucker – Read This! Michael Jackson’s Not Dead! – which drew 1,000s of visitors. Most of whom were unaware that the events surrounding Jackson’s death were being leveraged by cyber crooks to drop malware on unsuspecting surfers machines.

A similar scenario is being played out here. Cyber crooks are using, as they always have, a provocative and tempting attention grabber as a hook to reel in the unwary and undereducated Internet surfer.

Since this site has a high Google Page Rank rating, the search string “kate middleton nude”, is in second place in Google search results out of 3 Million plus. I’d like to think, that those lucky few, who clicked on – Kate Middleton Nude – As If! – have a developed a heightened sense of awareness of cyber criminal manipulation of current events.

I’d like to think that – but, I doubt it. I’m convinced that the potential victims who clicked on this article, went on clicking elsewhere in their hunt for the non-existent. Without a doubt, some are now dealing with malware infections.

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Kate Middleton Nude – As If!

imageI’m an easy mark when it comes to pomp and circumstance, so like millions worldwide, I just finished watching the Royal Wedding. An impressive occasion, to say the least. Now, I need to relax and get over my Royal Wedding media hangover.

The media frenzy surrounding the wedding is likely to remain at a fever pitch far into the future however, as will the level of cyber criminal activity hooked on to Prince William and Kate Middleton. Hardly surprising, when one considers the size of the “market”. Scoping out  “the royal wedding” on Google returns an amazing 53 Million search results – and cyber crooks love a big market.

Cyber crooks don’t miss a trick when it comes to leveraging events surrounding popular personalities, and along with the usual schemes – inbox spam, phony search results, Twitter and Facebook misdirection …….., – Kate Middleton comment spam, as illustrated by the following examples posted here in the last few days, has not been neglected by these parasites.

The first:

kate middleton naked
easy-share.com/1914927081/Kate_Middleton_-_Nude_P…
Givliani@gmail.com
184.82.196.132 – Submitted on 2011/04/27 at 12:19 am

Clicking on the link leads to a 90 MB compressed download hosted at Easy Share. I have no doubt that downloading this file would lead to a very painful experience.

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The second:

This is actually my personal complete nude and semi-nude picture collection of Kate Middleton I collected over the last 10 weeks. http://www.megaupload.com/?d=8KKIJIWT Caution: Don’t leak this pack outside of this website or I will eliminate this comment and also chase you down to hell!

Clicking on this link leads to a similar 90 MB compressed download.

The third:

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prince william wedding
netload.in/dateimQ5jcAXATn/Kate_Middleton_-_Nude_…
Kingwood@yahoo.com
69.162.162.130 – Submitted on 2011/04/27 at 12:19 am

Download and view this entire pic series of Kate Middleton along with pretty much all the unclothed as well as naughty images one can locate on the world wide web. http://www.fileserve.com/file/xnj2k2Q Caution: Don’t leak this pack outside of this site or I will delete this post and hunt you down to hell!

A similar set up – clicking on the link leads to a 90 MB compressed download.

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If you’ve ever wondered why comments on this site, and many other sites for that matter, are held for moderation by a site administrator, the simple answer is – comment spam, as illustrated, can be extremely dangerous.

The amount of time required to effectively control comment spam is not insignificant. For example, since I first setup this site, I’ve dealt with over 55,000 spam comments.

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Conservatively, it takes 10 seconds to check each spam comment (spam filters are not perfect) – that amounts to 152 hours, or 4 plus weeks, of wasted time. Needless to say – I consider comment spammers to be far down on the human evolutionary scale.

Same old – same old:

Be cautious when following links contained in comments on any web site.

Be particularly cautious of comments, on any web site, where the writer is describing a problem with recommended software and offers a link to alternative software.  This is a favorite technique employed by cyber-criminals.

Be cautious when following any link contained in any web site, since the latest reports indicate there are 5.8 million individual web pages infected across 640,000 compromised websites. Cyber-criminals are finding it easier than ever to inject malicious content into legitimate sites.

Be cautious following links on web forums. Forums can often be a source of dangerous links.

Since the majority of infected sites are infected with Java based scripts, consider using Firefox with the NoScript add-on active. NoScript offers superior protection.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is Web of Trust, an Internet Explorer/Firefox add-on, that offers substantial protection against questionable, or unsafe websites.

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Filed under Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Software, spam, Windows Tips and Tools

Government of Nigeria “tortures” 419 Scammers – If Only!

imageI’m not advocating the torture of cyber criminals and spam scam artists, although ….

This morning, when I received an email (ostensibly), from The Federal Government of Nigeria (The Advance Fee Fraud section), in which it was made clear that – “some scam Syndicates were apprehended in Lagos, Nigeria few days ago and after several interrogations and tortures, (my) details were among those mentioned by some of the scam Syndicates as one of the victims of their operations” , it momentarily entered my mind that torture might be an appropriate penalty. Especially for those involved in this latest “wolf in sheep’s clothing” scam.

I’ve covered the wolf in sheep’s clothing scam here a number of times, including

1051 Site Dr. Brea, CA – Not An Address You Want To Go To!

A Helpful Spam Scammer – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

This particular spam scam is highly instructive, and it illustrates the lengths to which these crooks will go to entrap the unwary and gullible. Unfortunately, the description “unwary and gullible”, is easily applied to substantial numbers of Internet users.

As an experienced and cautious Internet user, it’s safe to say that you will not be deceived by this type of clumsy attempt to defraud but, you might be surprised how often reasonably intelligent people are. So, be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates, particularly those who are new Internet users, and let them know that there is an epidemic of this types of scam on the Internet. In doing so, you help raise the level of protection for all of us.

For reference, I’ve included the full text of this “torturous” email, which contains the usual spelling, grammar, punctuation, and layout errors.

EFCC FRAUD UNIT

Attention,
The Federal Government of Nigeria through provisions in Section 419 of the
Criminal Code came up with punitive measures to deter and punish
offenders.The Advance Fee Fraud section deal mainly with cases of advance
fee fraud(commonly called 419) such as obtaining by false pretence through
different fraudulent schemes e.g. contract scam, credit card scam,
inheritance scam, job scam, loan scam, lottery scam, “wash wash” scam (money
washing scam), marriage scam. Immigration scam, counterfeiting and religious
scam. It also investigates cyber crime cases.
This is to officially announce to you that some scam Syndicates were
apprehended in Lagos, Nigeria few days ago and after several interrogations
and tortures your details were among those mentioned by some of the scam
Syndicates as one of the victims of their operations.
After proper investigations and research at Western Union Money Transfer and
Money Gram office to know if you have truly sent money to the scam
Syndicates through Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram, your name was
found in Western Union Money Transfer database amongst those that have sent
money through Western Union Money Transfer to Nigeria and this proves that
you have truly been swindled by those unscrupulous persons by sending money
to them in the course of getting one fund or the other that is not real,
right now we are working hand in hand with Western Union and Interpol to
track every fraudsters down, do not respond to their e-mails, letters and
phone calls any longer they are scammers and you should be very careful to
avoid being a victim to fraudsters any longer because they have nothing to
offer you but to rip-off what you have worked hard to earn.
In this regard a meeting was held between the Board of Directors of The
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and as a consequence of our
investigations it was agreed that the sum of Two hundred thousand US Dollars
(US$200,000) should be transferred to you out of the funds that Federal
Government of Nigeria has set aside as a compensation to everyone who have
by one way or the other sent money to fraudsters in Nigeria.
We have deposited your fund at Western Union Money Transfer agent location
EMS Post office Lagos, Nigeria. We have submitted your details to them so
that your fund can be transferred to you.
Contact the Western Union agent office through the email address stated
below inform them about this notification letter and the transfer of your
fund;
Email:wu_payingdept@qatar.io
Yours sincerely,
Sarah White (Miss)
Assistant Investigation Officer.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
15A Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Nigeria
http://www.efccnigeria.org
******************************************************************

Please note that some fraudsters are claiming to be Directors or staff of
The Ecomomic and Financial Crimes Commission have recently been sending
phony e-mails/letters and also calling unsuspecting persons, with intent to
defraud them. It is important to note that these fraudsters are criminals
engaged in Advanced Fee Fraud known in Nigeria as 419. Every day, people
throughout the world are falling victim to scams of one kind or another. But
remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. In the
circumstance, we unreservedly advice you to dissociate yourselve from all
correspondence and transactions entered into based on evidently fraudulent
and fictitious claims.
********************************************************************

“This e-Mail may contain proprietary and confidential information and is sent for the
intended recipient(s) only. If, by an addressing or transmission error, this mail has been
misdirected to you, you are requested to delete this mail immediately. You are also
hereby notified that any use, any form of reproduction, dissemination, copying,
disclosure, modification, distribution and/or publication of this e-mail message, contents
or its attachment(s), other than by its intended recipient(s), is strictly prohibited. Any
opinions expressed in this email are those of the individual and not necessarily of the
organization. Before opening attachment(s), please scan for viruses.”
All business handled under Standard Trading Conditions. Copy available on request.
********************************************************************

Just to be clear, as a strong supporter of Amnesty International, any references I made to torture were for effect, only.

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Filed under 419 Scam, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Email, email scams, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, spam, Windows Tips and Tools