Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gone Phishing

I came across an interesting variation on the infamous "Nigerian" scams--you know, that someone in Nigeria needs help holding onto millions of dollars and just needs your bank account information...yeah.

Anyway, I got the following note this morning purportedly from someone who is in my Toastmasters club:
Hello ,

How are you doing? Hope all is well with you and family, i am sorry i didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.

I need a favor from you as I've misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept and I will like you to assist me with an urgent loan of $2,800 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with and I'll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return.Please kindly help me to send the money through Western union with my details below.

Address : 12 Cromwell Road
Zip code: SW5 OSW
State: London
Country : England

kindly help me to make the transfer as soon as you receive this email and once you have it sent, send me the money transfer control number with details used in sending it.

Thanks so much

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.

A couple of things struck me. First, having known this person for years, it was more than a little out of character (and she types better than that)--and, second, even if I didn't know her well, why would she be asking me for help? If someone were really stuck, wouldn't they be more likely to call someone they know rather than send a generic e-mail?

Oh, and they don't call them ZIP codes in England.

The scary part was that the reply-to address was almost the same as her proper e-mail address--but two letters had been transposed.

As with most scams, a little common sense and a little logic go a long way toward not falling for these things. Something as simple as doing a Google search for the subject line (in this case, "Kindly Assist Me") also turns up a few links to similar scams.

Other clues that something is a scam: if a bank that you have never heard of tells you to update your account info, it's probably a scam. (Funny: I used to get all sorts of notices presumably from "Fifth Third Bank" telling me that my account info needed updating. I had never heard of "Fifth Third Bank" and the name even sounded phony. And then I was watching a basketball game a few months ago and it was being played in the "Fifth Third Bank Arena" in Cincinnati and I thought, "Hey! That's the bank that's in all those e-mail scams! It does exist!" Probably not the kind of marketing the bank wanted.)

Anyway, the point is, if it sounds phishy, it probably is!

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