Advance fee tricks, bogus pregnancy tests and Windows XP warnings: Internet Scambusters #590
Advance fee frauds come in all shapes and sizes and in this week's Snippets issue, we'll tell you about the latest tricks the scammers have come up with.
We've also got the lowdown on a low-down trick involving the sale of positive pregnancy test results.
And we're sounding a warning about the imminent expiration of Microsoft support for its aging Windows XP operating system.
Let's get started...
Small Firms & Chess Players Targeted in Latest Advance Fee Scams
We've almost lost count of the number of different tricks advance fee scam artists use to try to get their hands on your money.
They've certainly come a long way from the early days when they used to offer victims a cut of millions of dollars they claimed to be trying to smuggle out of the country.
But all of their scams are based on a single idea -- offering a payout or a big order with strings attached, involving payment of an upfront fee.
In the latest versions, they have very precise and unusual targets in their sights: coffee roasters -- and maybe chess players.
Bogus Orders for Coffee Roasters
Coffee shops and other small outlets that roast their own coffee are being targeted with a bogus order that comes with a tear-jerking claim that it's needed for an orphanage.
The request, in broken English, is for 250 pounds of coffee. Anyone who responds is then asked to contact a shipping company (which turns out to be fictitious) for a transportation quotation.
The presumed follow-through is that the scammer then sends a dud check to cover both the coffee and the shipment and asks the victim to wire the shipping fee direct to the transporter (who is, of course, the scammer).
So this is just a new variation of an old trick that has been tried out on scores of different types of small business.
The solution, as always, is never to wire money to individuals or organizations you don't know.
Chess "Ambassador" Scam
Are you a chess player? Any kind of chess player? Well, how would you like to be an "ambassador" for the game and earn yourself an unbelievable sum of money?
That's the lure in what may be another advance fee scam -- or it could have another motive like uploading malware or identity theft.
It comes in the form of an email, presumably sent out to anyone who's identifiable online as a chess enthusiast.
The message purports to come from a real chess institute at Missouri's private Webster University, but it's really from a scammer in Russia.
The message, with the subject line "Chess Contract," invites recipients to become an ambassador for the legitimate Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE).
It doesn't actually say what an ambassador has to do other than "promote College Chess."
Fortunately, the giveaway is in the outrageous reward offered -- $25 million, yes $25 million, for a year's work.
And all you need is a "basic knowledge in chess."
In her own blog, Ms. Polgar reports: "This scam uses my name, and SPICE. It offers people the opportunity to make $25 million for being an Ambassador for SPICE for 1 year.
"But before this can happen, you must send money to this scam company. This simply does not exist, and I hope that chess players are smart enough to understand this obvious scam.
"No one in chess, not even Magnus Carlsen (World Chess Champion), gets $25 million per year to be an Ambassador of anything. If anyone asks you about this, please make sure you let them know that this is an obvious scam and do NOT send money to anyone."
But the message also comes with an attachment, which could be embedded with malware.
And it asks for a driver's license and other documentary details, which could be used for ID theft.
So, stick to your chess and avoid this "invitation" match.
Bogus Pregnancy Test Result
Now, as they say, for something completely different -- and particularly nasty.
According to the Internet "newspaper" the Daily Dot, users of the online classified ads site Craigslist are advertising positive pregnancy test results for $25 or $30.
It started with a single ad, back in May last year, when a pregnant woman said she'd had so many requests for positive test results that she decided to sell them.
Then another seller reportedly followed suit, offering the test result "in case you wanted to get your boyfriend to pop the question."
Now, similar ads are appearing across the country.
Advertisers usually offer their "product" on a no-questions-asked basis. As one put it: "Don't care what you use it for. That's your business."
She continues: "There've already been lots of other women asking for my help."
Action: You have been warned!
Windows XP Alert
If you're one of the tens or even hundreds of millions using the Windows XP operating system on your computer, you may already know that Microsoft announced it would no longer support the product after April 8.
This isn't the place to explain what that means, though Microsoft dramatically labels it as an "end of life" for the aging system.
If you want to understand more, read Microsoft's Support is ending soon article.
However, we did want to flag up two important potential scam issues you need to be aware of:
First, the end of support will likely mean no further security updates for the XP operating system from Microsoft.
It's possible that your existing Internet security software (you do have it installed don't you?) may be sufficient to protect you if you keep it up to date.
But then again, it may not (and we recommend against taking the chance), if crooks look to exploit new vulnerabilities in the software.
Microsoft has said its own security suite (Microsoft Security Essentials) will continue to be updated "for a limited time."
If you use another security product, check with the producers about their plans for continuing coverage.
Secondly, crooks may also try to use this event as an opportunity to send out a whole host of malware-laden attacks, from pop-ups and phone calls to email attachments and infected websites, claiming you're at risk -- when really they're trying to trick you into installing their malware.
Action: As we said in the previous item: You have been warned. Be alert to these risks if you plan to stick with XP.
That's a wrap for this week.
We've covered quite a breadth of issues, from advance fees through bogus pregnancy test results to expiring operating systems.
That only goes to show how wide the scope is for scammers.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!