Internet spam spawns
E-mail inboxes are overwhelmed with spam and scams.
Who are these uninvited letter writers and what do they want? In
many cases, they are scam artists trying to steal your money and
"While not all unsolicited e-mail messages are
fraudulent, consumers should be very suspicious of anyone who promises
them easy money, incredibly cheap prices or free services that may
have hidden costs," says Susan Grant, director of Internet
Fraud Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization created by the
National Consumers League in 1992.
Last year Americans lost $6,152,070 to Internet scams
according to IFW.
Here's a list of the most common scams currently flooding
the Net. We've included examples of e-mail spam that could be a
scam attempt. All the company names have been removed and who knows,
maybe some are actually legitimate. We doubt it.
Remember: Investigate carefully before responding
to any unsolicited offer. Or, better yet -- delete it.
and retail scams
Scams at online auction sites are the most frequently reported form
of Internet fraud, according to the Federal
Trade Commission, the Department
of Justice and IFW. These schemes typically offer high-value
items, such as Cartier watches, Beanie Babies and computers, in
hopes of attracting many consumers. What happens is the victim wins
the bid, sends the money and receives nothing or receives products
of much lower quality than advertised.
Example of e-mail invitation to bid:
Subject: Live 3 minute auctions
Live 3 Minute AUCTIONS!
Best Deals on Jewelry, Computers, Electronics,
Watches, Etc. -- All starting at $1 with
No Minimum Reserve.
You Set The Price!
This one's been around for many years but continues to flourish.
The Nigerian bank scam is the fastest growing Internet fraud reported
to IFW. The average victim lost $5,957 to this scam in 2001. Hundreds
of different variations of this scam exist, but they all use the
Many of these e-mails claim to be from a person in
Africa, usually Nigeria. The writer claims to have access to millions
of dollars, either from a relative or from knowledge of an idle
account. A percentage of this money is promised to the victim if
they will allow the money to be processed through their personal
bank account. The victim is to keep their share and send the remaining
money to the scammer.
The check given to the victims is fraudulent. The
victim is then liable to the bank for the check they wrote to the
In some cases, churches and other nonprofits have
been targeted by this scam. They are told a wealthy person has died
and left all their money to the victim organization.
a Web site founded by broadcaster and author Rich Buhler, has tracked
91 versions of this scam.
Subject: Family Business Assistance
FROM: Prince Tunde O Adisaraki
This letter might surprise you because we have
not met neither in person nor by correspondence. But I believe
it is one day that you get to know somebody either in physical
or through correspondence. I got your contact through some discreet
inquiry from the chamber of commerce and industry, you and your
organization were revealed as being quite astute in private entrepreneurship,
one has no doubt in your ability to handle a financial business
However, I am the first son of his Royal Majesty,
Iginawari Nweke Adisaraki III and the traditional ruler of Eleme
Province in the oil area of Rivers State of Nigeria. I am making
this contact to you in respect of US 28,000,000.00 (Twenty eight
million United States Dollars) which I inherited from my late
father. This money was accumulated from royalties paid to my father
as compensation by the oil firms located in our area as a result
of oil presence on our land which hamper agriculture which is
our major source of livelihood. Unfortunately, my father died
from protracted diabetes. But before his death he called my attention
and informed me that he lodged some funds with a security firm
with an open beneficiary status. The lodgment Security Code Number
was also revealed to me. He then advised me to look for a reliable
business partner abroad who will assist me in investing the money
in a lucrative business as a result of economic instability in
So this is the main reason why I am contacting
you for us to move this money from the security firm to any country
of your choice for investment purposes. So I will like you to
be the ultimate beneficiary, so that the funds can be moved in
your name and particulars to any country of your choice where
it will be claimed and invested. Hence my father have had intimated
the security firm personnel that the beneficiary is his foreign
partner whose particulars will be forwarded to the firm when due.
But I will guide you accordingly. As soon as
the fund reaches, I will then come over to meet you in person,
so that we can discuss physically on investment entials. Based
on this instance, I and my family have unanimously decided to
give you 20 percent of the total money and annual 5 percent of
the after-tax returns on investment for the first three years.
Thereafter, the term shall be varied. Two percent for charity
homes and 3 percent for expenses, which may arise during the transaction,
fax and phone bills inclusive. The balance of 75 percent you will
invest and manage for my family. I hereby guarantee you that this
is not government money, it is not drug money and it is not money
from arms deals. Though you have to maintain a high degree of
confidentiality on this matter.
I will give you all proof of deposit and existence
of money once urged and fully satisfied with your capability and
honesty. I hope this will be the beginning of a prosperous relationship
between my family and your family. Nevertheless, if you are for
any reason not interest, kindly inform me immediately, so that
I will look for another contact.
I require also your private phone and fax numbers
for easy communication. I am waiting for your quick response through
my private phone or fax number.
I am waiting for your quick response.
Prince Tunde Olusola Adisaraki (For the Family)
This scam targets people whose home mortgages are in trouble. The
scammers promise to take care of problems with mortgage lenders
or to obtain refinancing for the victim. Sometimes they ask the
victims to make mortgage payments directly to them. They may even
ask victims to hand over property deeds. The scammers pocket all
the money the victim has paid and file for bankruptcy in the victim's
name, usually without the victim's knowledge. Victims lose their
money and their homes and are left with a bankruptcy listed on their
credit records forever.
Example of spam e-mail targeting debtors:
Be debt free in 12 months
*********** X **********
Eliminate debt fast!
Make one low monthly payment!
Save 30%-50% and be debt free in 12 months!
Would you like to be debt free in 12-30 months?
Would you like to pay off your debt at 60 cents on the dollar?
Debt mediation can help you accomplish this goal and get you back
on your feet to financial freedom without bankruptcy, counseling
programs, or a loan.
to terror attack victims
After Sept. 11, unsolicited e-mail messages began circulating urging
people to donate money to the Red Cross, the United Way, the September
11 Fund or to other charities benefiting victims of the attacks
and their families. The Department of Justice reports that scammers
tried to persuade people to leave valuable personal or financial
data, such as credit-card numbers at Internet Web sites. These turn
out to be fraudulent sites with no affiliation to legitimate charitable
Telemarketers got in on the act, too, operating fraudulent
sweepstakes and magazine-subscription schemes falsely promising
that a portion of the money would be provided to the disaster recovery
According to the Department of Justice, legitimate
charitable causes do not need to make unsolicited telephone calls
or send unsolicited e-mails for donations.
Subject: Help victims of terror attacks!
The American Red Cross needs your help. Terror
victims and their families are relying on donations to help them
through their loss. Please make a donation to the victims of this
horrible national tragedy. Please fill out this form to make a
donation to the American Red Cross.
Work at home
and business opportunity scams
Scammers who used newspaper ads to promote the old "work-at-home"
scam are now plying their trade via e-mail. They tempt victims by
stating "no experience necessary," promise high earnings
and claim to have inside information. These scammers usually require
victims to pay anywhere from $35 to several hundred dollars or more
for information, kits or materials that do not provide the promised
Frequently, these schemes involve making handicrafts,
stuffing envelopes, medical billing, or state, "Use your home
PC to make money fast in your spare time."
In the handicraft making or envelope stuffing scam,
after paying fees and completing the assembly of the products, victims
are told their work is low quality and unworthy of compensation.
Medical billing scams require victims to purchase
supplies and lists of doctors who, inevitably don't exist or are
not interested in the service.
Another version of this scam promises victims the
secret to a successful business. After paying a fee, victims receive
the secret: place ads and e-mails exactly like the ones they answered.
Subject: Simple Non-Internet Home Based
Business -- Special Report
I'm always on the lookout for new, REAL home-based
business opportunities for our subscribers, and I've stumbled
on to something pretty amazing.
There's no "learning curve," no complicated
technology to figure out. It can be run completely from home,
and there's no face-to-face selling.
* Incredibly Simple -- Everything's step-by-step
* Let's you help people while making money
* Fantastically profitable
If you no longer wish to receive e-mails from
us CLICK HERE.
Many offers for free or low-cost computers are scams. "Free"
may only apply to the hard drive. A monitor, keyboard, mouse, modem,
printers or speakers may cost extra. Some offers require providing
personal information -- a warning sign of identity theft. Some scams
require a contract with a particular Internet Service Provider for
several years of service.
There may be no warranty or customer support. In many
cases the computers don't exist at all, or the seller may be on
the verge of going out of business and never deliver the promised
merchandise or rebate.
Business Bureau warns that fraudulent operators open and close
quickly, so sellers with no complaints registered on an auction
site or with a fraud alert site are not necessarily legitimate.
Free digital camera
We have partnered with X to offer you a SPECIAL Member Bonus!!
Act now and get the amazing 3-in-1 PocketCam for FREE!!
- It's a Digital Camcorder
- It's a WebCam
- It's a Standard Digital Camera
All of this from a camera that easily fits in your pocket so you
can take it ANYWHERE!!
This is a limited time offer ... so ACT NOW!!
Click here: To enjoy this special LIMITED TIME promotion!
While many prescription Web sites offer convenience and low prices,
other sites could actually endanger health. According to the Better
Business Bureau, the quality of prescription drugs from some online
pharmacies is unknown. There have been many cases of counterfeits
drugs that lack any real similarity to the approved drug. Even drugs
that prove to be authentic may be contaminated or expired.
Some of these sites claim to have doctors on staff
available to diagnose and prescribe medications with no examination.
The BBB warns that this could result in an inappropriate prescription.
Association of Boards of Pharmacy provides information on approved
Subject: Discreet Overnight Pharmacy No Prior
VIAGRA PHENTERMINE PROPECIA
And Many Other Top Medications
No Prior Prescription Needed!
These e-mails and Web sites promise a quick divorce obtained in
the Dominican Republic or other foreign country without either partner
ever having to leave the United States. Victims spend $1,000 or
more after reading the often false, misleading, or legally inaccurate
information. Most victims eventually receive false assurances that
they are legally divorced. In fact, they are still legally married.
Subject: Low cost divorce from the best law firms
I thought you might need these:
1. Sometimes You Need a Lawyer, too.
Get the Legal Help You Need Today.
Investment scams give potential victims false information to encourage
them to purchase a certain stock. Unknowingly, victims purchasing
this stock cause the dramatic price increase of these previously
weak stocks. The scammers then immediately sell off their stocks
and reap the profits. Victims are left with worthless or nearly
worthless stocks once the price falls.
In another version of the scheme, false, negative
information about a company is spread to frighten investors into
selling their stocks. Scammers then buy stock at a low price. After
the information is proven false, the stock recovers. While victims
sold at a loss, the scammers make a profit.
Subject: The Stock To Watch
X. (XXXX:X) Six Month Target Price: $5.33
Shares Outstanding 15 million
Approx. Float 4 million
6 Month Proj. $5.33
A Few Reasons To Own X
1. Potential opportunity to get in at the beginning.
2 X successfully completed a reverse merger, and opened for trading
as a publicly traded company.
3. X has averaged $50 million in sales over the past three fiscal
years, and is profitable.
One flourishing identity theft scam can be found on Web sites selling
high-demand items at a much lower price than offered by legitimate
companies. The victim is told to pay nothing until the item is received.
The scammer then uses the victim's name, along with an unlawfully
obtained credit card number belonging to another person to buy the
item at a legitimate Web site. Once that Web site ships the item
to the victim, the victim, believing that the transaction is legitimate,
then authorizes his credit card to be billed to the scammer or sends
payment directly to the scammer.
A new identity theft scam gaining in popularity comes
from scammers claiming to be from the victim's credit card company,
eBay or PayPal.
The con artist sends a message that states that the
company -- a name you recognize -- needs to verify the victim's
account information to make sure it's protected. The scammers then
use the information to make fraudulent charges to your account.
EBay would never e-mail or call you to ask for account
information; if you are registered, they already have it. However,
eBay may send you an e-mail requesting that you change your password
if they suspect fraud. To ensure you are changing your password
at the true eBay sign-in or log-in page, check the URL (link). The
URL that appears in the Address/Location area of your browser will
begin with "http://cgi.ebay.com/". Pay close attention
to all characters in the address, including the forward slash (/)
that follows "ebay.com". Even if the URL includes the
word "ebay", it may not be a genuine eBay Web site.
Never give your personal information to a company
that already has it. If in doubt, contact the company independently
using the company's contact information on their official Web site
or on a bill -- not from unsolicited e-mails or phone calls.
This E-mail was submitted by (X@ebay.com)
on Friday, May 10, 2002 at 14:00:30
msg: Dear eBay User,
It has become very noticeable that another party
has been corrupting your eBay account and has violated our User
Agreement policy listed:
Bidding and Buying
You are obligated to complete the transaction
with the seller if you purchase an item through one of our fixed
price formats or are the highest bidder as described below. If
you are the highest bidder at the end of an auction (meeting the
applicable minimum bid or reserve requirements) and the seller
accepts your bid, you are obligated to complete the transaction
with the seller, or the transaction is prohibited by law or by
You received this notice from eBay because it
has come to our attention that your current account has caused
interruptions with other eBay members and eBay requires immediate
verification for your account. Please verify your account or the
account may become disabled. Click Here To Verify Your Account
Some information and pornography sites require victims to download
information or programs. Many of these downloads contain viruses.
Some victims may unknowingly download a dialer program. The dialer
program enables the scammer to disconnect the victim's modem and
then connect it to a foreign telephone number, resulting in expensive
phone charges. Some dialer programs turn off the volume on the victim's
computer so victims can't hear the dialing take place.
Subject: Hey I switched e-mail addresses to avoid.
HEY! I finally got my Web cam setup on a Web
page come check it out to watch me.
Click here to get to the site. Also this is TOTALLY 100% FREE!
Hope to see you soon sexy!
Job service scammers take advantage of job seekers. They claim to
offer employment services, inside information or inside contacts
to jobs. After paying a fee, victims learn they only provide advice,
help writing a resume -- or less. Some fraudulent employment services
simply sell lists of companies that they have gotten from public
directories. They may not have contacted those companies directly
or know if there are really any job openings.
Subject: Looking for energetic people
Immediate Help Needed. We are a Fortune 500 company
that is growing at a tremendous rate of over 1,000% per year.
We simply cannot keep up.
We are looking for energetic and self motivated
people. If that is you then click on the link below and complete
our online information request form, and one of our employment
specialists will contact you.
Scholarship search scams charge for their services, guarantee scholarship
money and don't deliver scholarships. Some may provide lists of
available scholarships that the victims could have found on their
own for free. There's no such thing as a guaranteed scholarship
unless it's offered directly by the academic institution.
Subject: College Scholarship Report for friend
Friend, click here to find FREE COLLEGE MONEY!
You are eligible for up to $20,000 in scholarships
and financial aid. To complete your FREE report click here!
Congratulations! Here is your chance to find FREE College Money!
You are currently eligible to receive up to $20,000 in college
scholarships and financial aid:
Click here to receive your complete College Scholarship
Report, including application instructions. Note: Some scholarships
require a response within two weeks. Get started now by clicking
here! This is a free service.
These scams offer great deals on new subscriptions or to renew current
ones. These con artists trick victims into spending more than they
realize or paying for magazines they'll never receive. The cost
may be described as pennies a month -- but not state how many pennies
or for how long. Some subscription services don't allow cancellations
once they have placed the orders with the publishers.
Subject: You know you want it
For the best source of information for all the stuff that matters,
check out X magazine. To start your RISK-FREE trial to X and enter
to win a FREE $100 Gift Certificate go to:
Try X magazine today! You're sure to enjoy every
Some unscrupulous companies offer free trips -- for a price. Often,
victims are told they have won a free trip.
These free or incredibly cheap trips may have hidden
costs. IFW warns of cruises that are advertised as free but don't
include air fare to the departure point or hotel stays. The recipient
of the free trip is required to make these extra reservations through
a specific company -- and the costs are much higher than market
price. Others may require attending a long, high-pressure sales
pitch for a time share or travel club membership as part of the trip.
Still others are valid only if bringing a companion along at full
Subject: You won a cruise!
You Won A Cruise X
You have just won a cruise aboard a 1600 passenger
Click here for details
These scammers tell victims they have won a prize or sweepstakes.
Victims are then told they need to send the company taxes on the
winnings or purchase a product to receive the prize. It's illegal
for a company to require purchasing a product or paying a fee to
win or claim a prize. And taxes are never sent to the awarding company
-- only to the IRS.
Some scammers will instruct the victim to share bank
account, Social Security or credit card numbers. No legitimate sweepstakes
company will ask for this information. These scammers steal the
victim's identity and empty their bank accounts, make charges on
the victim's credit card or open accounts in the their name.
Some con artists use company names that are identical
or very similar to well-known, legitimate sweepstakes operators.
The IFW says doubting consumers should contact the real company
to verify the call, e-mail or letter.
Another sweepstakes scam reported by the IFW involves
an advance. These scammers give advances on the promised winnings
to build trust. They send a check as an advance on the winnings,
instructing victims to cash it and then wire payment to them for
taxes, bonding or some other phony purpose. After victims wire the
money, the deposited check finally bounces because it turned out
to be an elaborate fake. Now the scammers have the payment, and
the victim owes bank the amount withdrawn.
RE/ AWARD NOTIFICATION; FINAL NOTICE
We are pleased to inform you of the announcement
today, 4TH OCTOBER 2002, of winners of the DELOTTO NETHERLANDS
SWEEPSTAKE LOTTERY/ INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS held on 1ST SEPTEMBER
Your company, attached to ticket number 025-1146-1992-750,
with serial number 2113-05 drew the lucky numbers 13-15-22-37-39-43,
and consequently won the lottery in the 3rd category.
You have therefore been approved for a lump sum
pay out of US$1,200,000.00 in cash credited to file REF NO. EGS/2551256003/04.
This is from total prize money of US$20,400,000.00 shared among
the seventeen international winners in this category. All participants
were selected through a computer ballot system drawn form 25,000
names from Australia, New Zealand, America, Europe and North America
as part our International Promotions Program, which is conducted
to fix your credit
E-mails promising to fix bad credit are basically fraudulent. No
one can erase negative information if it's accurate. Only incorrect
information can be removed.
Accurate information stays on record for seven years
from the time it's reported. Bankruptcies stay on for 10 years.
Once you sign up for the service, here's what happens:
The credit repair thugs send letters to the various credit reporting
agencies stating that the negative information on your credit report
is false. The credit reporting agencies generally remove the negative
information while investigating the claim. The victim is shown his
cleaned-up report and believes his credit history has been fixed.
But what you don't know is that once the credit reporting
agencies verify the information and discover that the negative information
is correct, it is placed back on your credit report.
Legitimate services exist to help people with debt
problems. However, credit repair services can't ask for payment
until they've kept their promises. Federal law also requires for-profit
credit repair services to give clients an explanation of their legal
rights, a detailed written contract and three days to cancel. However,
many credit repair services that claim to be nonprofit charge hefty
fees and cause more debt problems. IFW recommends contacting the
Foundation for Credit Counseling for advice on building a good
You can now access and clear up bad credit online,
directly from the convenience of you own computer.
Watch your credit daily with real-time updates.
GET THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO QUICKLY &
EFFICIANTLY REMOVE NEGATIVE CREDIT ITEMS FROM YOUR REPORT.
Lost pet phone
Scambusters has reported a new scam plaguing people who have
lost their pets. The scammers look for lost pet announcements in
newspapers or on signs, then call saying that a Mexican worker took
the pet back to Tijuana.
Victims are told to call the worker in Tijuana. The
phone number they are given has the area code 809 -- which is actually
a number in the Dominican Republic that charges callers astronomical
amounts for each call. When the victims call, the scammer's associates
string them along with broken English and misunderstandings, until
they've racked up hundreds of dollars on the phone bill. The victim
ends up paying a huge phone bill that goes directly into the pockets
of the scammers, and your pet is still no where to be found.
-- Updated: March 26, 2003