E MAIL RACKETEERS
Posted on February 23rd, 2012

Dr. Tilak Fernando

Recently I was bombarded with telephone calls and emails from friends who received a message in the same fashion described by Racket Buster where a hacker stated that I was ‘marooned in Madrid, lost all my belongings and in a desperate situation for funds. He had nominated a reputed international money transfer-agency to send money to ‘me’ which ‘I could reimburse in three days of my return to base’.

Many friends got alarmed. Personally, I was overwhelmed with the sincerity they exhibited thinking it was a genuine mishap. Some who had heard about this game before informed me about the spam and advised to change my password.

My friend Tony however was smart. He asked me to refrain from responding to the charlatan; instead he reacted to the hacker from the ‘reply mode’. To his incredulity, Tony received an account number, hotel name and room number with a request to transfer 1,500 Euros. Tony’s clever move on such monkey pranks put an end to my ‘head-ache.’ Subsequently I received an identical e-mail from another bilker from Spain using a Sri Lankan email address with a similar plea.

Many facets

There are many facets to this kind of conning the public on the Internet. Recently a mail circulated impersonating Mozilla Firefox Corporation advising recipients that their names had been picked up from a Mozilla data base raffle and an amount of Sterling Pounds 750,000( Rs.135,000,000) cash payment was waiting to be claimed within a week! It was further strengthened by inserting a photograph, as a ‘Director’ of Mozilla Corporation, his telephone number and a London address.

Out of curiosity and being investigative, I forwarded a ‘cut and paste’ version of the document to Firefox customer services to check on the authenticity of the contents and to get confirmation whether the name and the photograph inserted in the mail was genuine. I even followed it up by making an international telephone call to the number given. Amazingly, the person named in the letter responded in a strong American accent with a single sentence: “I will get back to you”. Naturally the bilker never came back to me.

As I started writing this column another spam arrived in my inbox which stated in verbatim as follows:

“This is to inform you that you have won prize money of Sterling Pounds 750,000.00 for this month of 2012 Lottery promotion which is organized YAHOO & MSN LOTTERY INC &WINDOWS LIVE”.

“YAHOO/MSN & MICROSOFT WINDOWS collects email addresses of people who are actively online. Among millions who subscribed to Yahoo and Hotmail, Gmail we only select five people every month as our winners through electronic balloting system without the winner applying”.

“We congratulate you for being one of the people selected. To claim your winning prize contact UN (United Nation) office (with personal details) by email: (gcvd@live.com) – Management Yahoo & Msn United Kingdom, Yahoo & Msn Headquarters Baley House, Har Road Sutton, SM1 4TE United Kingdom. Dated: 28:01:2012”

Psychological intimidation

Similar to these, there are other types of deceptive e-mails frequently hitting peoples’ mail boxes from various banks (of reputed names), some introducing as Solicitors from Africa, Executors and Guardians of Wills of dead personnel who had left a fortune under a recipient’s name.

Unfortunately many fall prey due to sheer greed innocently believing they are in for a windfall but little realising the damage they are causing to themselves by exposing their personal details to racketeers who can get up to many tomfoolery.

Another subtle form of collecting email addresses is by sending messages of spiritual type with religious pictures and promising good luck and fortune. The intimidating aspect of such mail is the psychological threat inbuilt into the message of punitive consequences if the receiver breaks the chain letter.

In the same fashion there are organizations that collect email addresses for marketing purposes which is known as ‘internet-based, paid work from home’.

Here too some fall prey by not only giving their details, and at times parting with payments, but exposing all known email addresses to collectors.

Avoidance

So far the only consolation an email user gets out of a search engine under ’email fraud’ is a warning statements stating thus:

“Due to the widespread use of web bugs in email, simply opening an email can potentially alert the sender that the address to which the email is sent is a valid address. This can also happen when the mail is ‘reported’ as spam, in some cases: if the email is forwarded for inspection, and opened, the sender will be notified in the same way as if the addressee opened it”.

“E-mail fraud may be avoided by keeping one’s email address as secret as possible; Using a spam filter;

Noticing the several spelling errors in the body of the ‘official looking’ e-mail; ignoring unsolicited emails of all types; simply deleting them; Not giving in to greed, since greed is often the element that allows one to be ‘hooked’. Many frauds go unreported to authorities, due to shame, guilt or embarrassment”.

These are serious internet crimes which slippery swindlers are getting up to. Surely isn’t there a way of tracking down on this type of transgression by Interpol or Internet policing to save public from racketeers!

It is equally unfortunate that alongside the exceptional advancement in Information Technology, broadening of crooked brains too have been on the increase to such a pitch that even the electronic industry is heading towards jeopardy.

Although computer owners/users pay good money to install virus guards purely to avoid electronic junk mail, yet the sad aspect is that no electronic prodigy has yet been able to discover anything which is hundred percent foolproof. I guess what we have left with is to continue to live with crooks all the time in this world.

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