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Falling for a hoax might be annoying or even embarassing. Falling for a fraud can be very expensive.
I received the following E-mail message:
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 19:36:43 -0400
From: Pc Promotions <Call.firstname.lastname@example.org (00)>
Subject: Order Confirmation
Thank you for your order...
Your credit card is currently being processed by us for... $349.00
To alter your account with us or if you have any questions, please call us on: (00)44 906 782 8529
This number will reach our Customer Service helpline, which is open 24 hours a day! Please do not hesitate to contact us. Once again, thank you for you order, we look forward to working with you again,
PC Promotions Sales Team #002
I strongly suspect this is an attempt to defraud me. There are several things wrong here:
I strongly suspect that the real purpose of this message was to induce me to call the phone number. Two common scenarios of fraud may be involved. First, they might use the call as an attempt to obtain my credit card number. Second, this is an international call that might be quite expensive, with the perpetrator collecting a share of the charges.
I have received several E-mail messages very much like the following:
From: "maryam" <email@example.com>
Subject: Urgent Assistance:
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002 09:06:49 -0600
Please, permit me to introduce myself. I am Mrs. Maryam Abacha wife of the late Nigerian Head of State General Sani Abacha who died on the 8th of June 1998 while in office.
Since his death, my family has lost so much including some fixed assets my husband acquired while in power. Evidently, the pages of all Nigerian Dailies, which you can equally get from Nigerian Embassy in your country, will tell better our story. Even now, our homes are under surveillance, and a security network has been woven around us. Worst of all, the government has resorted to confiscating everything that has to do with our family, including our foreign accounts which are all frozen at the moment.To crown it all,my first son Mohammed is presently in detention over crimes he was alleged to have committed when my husband was in power.
Before his death, my husband ran among other businesses a "BUREAU DE CHANGE" which was flourishing with every government support. From the Bureau De Change Business, which has now been clamped down on by Nigerian government, I was able to save US$12 million in cash.
Through the help of a close family friend who works in the Company, I diverted the US$12 million and moved it out of Nigeria to a Security Company in Europe using trunk boxes. For your information we did not disclose the real content of the boxes to the Security Company. We deposited the boxes as containing family valuables. In doing this, no names were used. It was done using codes. For security reasons, I will not mention the name of the country until I hear from you.
In view of our condition here and the high interest rate the security company charges, I would therefore need your honest assistance to clear this fund from the Security Company, deposit the funds in a local account in your name and order the bank to transfer the funds to your account in your country, and safeguard it for me.
Should you help me in this regard, you will have 20% of the money for yourself and guide me further to invest the remaining 80% in any viable business venture. Please if you ever find it in your heart to help me,let me know. Your telephone and fax numbers will also be needed to enable me get back to you with the lodging code and clearance permit from the security Company.
As soon as you send this information, we will make arrangement for you to pick up the consignment,please i have been betrayed by friends a number of times, i do not know who to trust anymore,i am broke and i need to get out of the country,this is why i have chosen this medium to seek your assistance.
While thanking you for your anticipated understanding and cooperation, I look forward to your urgent response.
Dr. Mrs. Maryam Abacha.
This very same fraud was described as spreading via postal mail several years ago in a segment of 60 Minutes. Now it is spreading via E-mail. The main point of this is to obtain your bank account number. Generally, the perpetrator will also seek "earnest money" from you to guarantee your honesty. Often called the "Nigerian Bank Fraud", perpetrators also use other nations.
As the head of a charitable foundation, I have also seen this same fraud where the perpetrator promises a substantial donation. Again, bank account numbers are sought.
The following explains a very important reason why I do not subscribe to paperless billing via E-mail.
I received an E-mail that claimed to be the monthly bill from AT&T for our cell phone. What struck me as strange was the amount: $1,967.98. Normally, the bill is less than $30. While my wife is the user of this phone, my E-mail address is on the account. In the past, we have always received a hard-copy bill via the U.S. Postal Service, which my wife pays.
While my wife searched her files for the latest AT&T statement — which she had already paid — I examined the E-mail more carefully. The message was HTML-formatted, so I redisplayed it on my Web browser. All the links to what should have been to AT&T (www.att.com) were instead to maxilco.com. An Internet WhoIs query indicates that maxilco.com belongs to Virtual-code Soluciones Informaticas in Mexico.
You can view the E-mail message. BE VERY CAREFUL!! I have not disabled any of the links. Those links are supposed to be to AT&T Web pages but are actually all to the same <http://maxilco.com/GWSubEDf/index.html> Web page. That Web page might cause a virus or other malware to be downloaded onto your computer.
I called AT&T's customer service and discussed this with them. They confirmed that we did not owe $1,967.98. The latest statement from AT&T was for less than $25. I asked if they wanted a copy of the E-mail message, and they gave me an E-mail address to which I could forward it. I did so. I receive a prompt reply to the extent that, since the message did not originate from within AT&T or an AT&T customer, AT&T would not do anything about it.
The question I have is: How are fraudulent E-mail billings going to be stopped if the supposed billers will not act on them? If I ran a business and found that my customers were being billed by someone else claiming to be me, I would surely try to put a stop to such a fraud. Columnist David Lazarus reported in the Los Angeles Times a similar problem with Western Union, which also has the same faulty attitude about fraud as does AT&T.
By the way, I also received similar messages from Sprint about my long-distance service. Sprint too was uninterested in any details.
If you receive any messages like these, notify the U.S. Department of Justice's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Updated 17 July 2012