Sunday, February 18, 2007

Spam that kills

If you get spam, you've probably received some, perhaps many, of these spam messages before. They purport that you are eligible for an inheritance transfer. Most of the time, the message indicates that your name was part of a search linking you somehow to the person who died. Again, most of the time, there is no apparent rationale for the linkage apart from the claim of the spam artist sending the email. So, you simply hit the delete key and move on, no matter how many millions of dollars are supposedly available in the "dormant" account of the deceased person.

But what if you received a message about an inheritance transfer that said your brother or sister had passed away and that you are named in the will? Would it be as easy to hit the delete key, especially if you live in another part of the world and haven't seen or spoken to your relative in a few months or years? What if the person named didn't have a will - and you happen to know this as well - and that you were discovered in a last name search? What if your name is uncommon and the person named as the deceased does have the same first name as a close relative? What if the email doesn't make extravagant claims about $30,000,000 million in American funds? What if it doesn't even mention the amount available, but instead simply suggests that a certain percentage will go towards legal costs in securing the inheritance for you?

You've probably already figured out that this sounds a lot like the Nigerian 419 spam. But this one comes from England or some other part of the world.

The variations on this spam/scam are endless. Unfortunately, it's becoming more sophisticated all the time. The particular example I'm giving came to me from a colleague at work who life was put into temporary turmoil because he did, indeed, have a brother whom he hadn't seen for a while and who might possibly have died.

It was probably only a coincidence. His brother is alive and well. It was probably only a case of a generic Nigerian 419 spam email message that just happened to have more plausibility that other variants. But in his case, we're talking about spam that kills your brother and then asks if you want part of the inheritance. It can't get much worse than that.

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