Consumers are being pelted with a cyber fraud effort in which the sender purports to be a representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division.
As with most of these types of Spam e-mails, the message portrays itself as an ‘Official’ notification that an ‘International Payment’ was issued to the receiver by an ‘International Lottery Company.’ There is no mention of a particular firm name, but the e-mail asserts that a new technology called the ‘International Monitoring Network System’ helped the FBI discover the receiver’s email address in an ‘Online Balloting System.’ Apparently, the receiver of this Spam e-mail is told that one of their holiday wishes has come true and that they are to receive a handsome Christmas bonus of $2.4 million.
Not surprisingly, there is a minimal processing fee of $96 required to send the receiver a two million dollar plus check. The e-mail goes on to inform the recipient that the processing fee payment should be deposited with the International Monetary Fund via alternate channels.
The spammer claims to be an FBI agent by the name of Mr. Ken Jackson. He assures the receiver, ‘we have verified the entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free.’ In order to complete the transaction, the outstanding processing fee will need to be paid to the ‘Lottery Agent in-charge,’ who just so happens to be located in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
To make the e-mail appear official, it includes a signature block and a picture of the current FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Spam of this nature, with the promise of fabulous riches, is nothing new. In fact, an exceedingly similar scam came to the attention of the FBI in December of 2008. The FBI issued a public warning explaining, ‘Consumers continue to be inundated by spam purportedly from the FBI. As with previous spam attacks, the latest versions use the names of several high ranking executives within the FBI, and even the IC3 to attempt to defraud consumers.’
Adding, ‘The FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails of this nature. FBI executives are briefed on numerous investigations but do not personally contact consumers regarding such matters.’
In the previous instance, the spammer claimed that the recipient had to pay a fine for alleged Internet crimes.
The 2008 incident was part of a deluge of spam e-mails of this nature as well as other fraudulent promises of an unclaimed inheritance and other get-rich-for-a-processing-fee genre. All of these spam-scams seemed to originate from Nigeria. Of course, the consistency of the perpetrators home location helped to create the mystique surrounding what is commonly referred to as that ‘Nigerian Scam’ or ‘Nigerian 419 Scam.’
There are a few differences in this recent spam attack, which suggest that the scammers are updating their attack and attempting to enhance the credibility of their message.
In the most recent iteration, the new e-mail has a reduced number of misspellings and syntax errors in the body of the message. No longer are nonsensical phrases littered about, and obvious foreign idioms are absent. Even so, it is still far from error free.
The proliferation of Nigerian scam e-mails has taken a toll on such efforts though, as it appears that the scam artists have migrated their home base. No longer is the processing lottery agent in charge residing in Nigeria. Instead, the perpetrator of the e-mail has moved operations to the east a few hundred miles and set up shop in Nigeria’s border neighbor the Benin Republic.
The design features of the e-mail have also been updated. Specifically, the scammers have added a solid new touch by including a picture of the FBI Director at the end of the email.
Ultimately, the spam effort to commit consumer fraud remains largely the same as it did when it first was inundating e-mail inboxes years ago. There will always be susceptible victims who do not actually consider the fact that if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is and on the Internet, always is.
Nevertheless, the changes in the language, reduced number of misspellings, lack of foreign and jarring idioms, the new end recipient’s country and the inclusion of the photo of the FBI director shows that these criminals are learning from past mistakes. The updated version of the spam e-mail indicates that this low-tech crime is continuing to evolve in sophistication by strengthening the credibility of the e-mails content and layout.
In the end, business must be good, as the spammers would not bother investing resources to polish up their fraudulent pitch if it were not, right?
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