By Stas Bekman.
Published: May 15th 2006
Emails scams come and go in waves. A typical scam suggests that someone has a huge amount of money in some third world country and they beg you to help them transfer the money out of that country and offering you a huge cash reward. If you respond, they will ask for a relatively little amount of money so that they can open a new account on your name and where they would transfer the money to. If you ever do that, say bye bye to your money. Neither you will get the promised bounty, nor you will ever again see your money.
The most prevalent recent email scam wave was coined as a Nigerian 419 scam, after the relevant section of the criminal code of Nigeria, where most of these scams originate.
Not all scams arrive to your mailbox at random. Often times you can get scammed when you try to buy something. Once I was looking to buy a notebook on ebay and I almost got scammed by someone who offered a very cheap new IBM notebook, but it was located in Greece and they wanted my money to be sent via an escrow account. Luckily I was alerted by the ebay security and didn't fall into the scam artist's trap. ebay is a very common place to get scammed. Be especially every of those vendors who have hundreds of "excellent vendor" comments and votes, many of those are fake users created to inflate the reputation of the scam artist. So that if someone reports as a scam it will disappear in the sea of positive votes. But let's get back to email scams.
Just like spammers, scam artists get better and better at their craft. It's a showcase for the social engineering at work. Just recently I was looking for a flatmate on craigslist. Shortly after submitting my ad, I've received a few responses which were very flaky. e.g. a fashion model who works in Africa, would like to come to my city and share the place with me. She doesn't ask any questions about the apartment, however she does mention that there is an agent who owes her money and she would like that agent to pay for her share of the apartment rent, and suggests that I contact him at a given phone. Well, I don't need to tell you the rest of the story.
"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can be reasonably sure it is a duck". So remember that normally you won't be offered money for nothing. If you get such an offer - be careful and take the safe route - delete that email.
Read about the Remedies to learn how to deal with the problem.
And here are some pointers for additional information on the subject:
Email Scam and
Phishing Resource (http://www.scamdex.com/)
on Confidence Tricks and Scams
Nigeria - The 419
Coalition Website (http://home.rica.net/alphae/419coal/)
Fraud, Hoaxes, Chain Letters: On the
to Report a Scam (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/how-to-report-scams.html)
Email Scam - Email Form (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/paypal_scam_email_form.html)
Working Group (http://www.antiphishing.org/)
And here you can find books that will provide an indepth coverage of scam and related material: