Apart from an overwhelming quantity of online banking scams hitting Irish mailboxes, ESET Ireland has in the recent months observed that the cybercriminals are also exploiting the misfortune of those worst hit by the economic situation, with the same immoral cynicism they apply when promoting fake charities or fraudulent donations during natural disasters.
Official-looking emails, equipped with company logotypes and addresses, are circulating, offering everything from easy and affordable loans, offers to work from home for an online enterprise, to completing financial transactions and taking a cut for yourself. All topics specifically aimed at those that found themselves out of work and regular income.
Needless to say, the golden rule “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” should be applied rather vigorously to most, if not all, such emails. The only goal of the cybercriminals is to make money. Any offers they make, any promises or good deals they offer, all serve their main purpose, to get to some of your money and make it theirs.
Even if they sound promising enough and will claim to provide the receiver with something, either a loan, a job or a transaction fee, most of these offers will sooner or require the victim to pay some advance fee or provide some delicate personal data, such as bank account or credit card numbers, or they will go straight for the main prize. One of these scams, for instance, reads:
I would like to know if you are interested to work from home for us WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR US? My Company needs a financial representative who will serve as our Agent in processing any of our funds made out to us by our CANADA, EUROPE & AMERICAN customers, Why we need you to represent us there is because the payments Takes a long period of time to clear in our banks in UK, and due to Frequent Request and supplies of product we do not meet our demand due to this Failure So that why we seek your time and assistance. JOB DESCRIPTION 1. Receive payment (America Cheques/EUROPE DRAFT) from Clients which will get to you through a courier service 2. Cash Payments at your Bank 3. Deduct 10% which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed. 4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the Offices you will be contacted to send payment to (Payment is to Forwarded By Western Union Money Transfer).
This, second example is probably something a little different: it looks like a money mule solicitation. ESET’s expert David Harley comments: “It’s still bad news for someone who takes up the offer, who is likely to find that sooner or later he’ll attract the attention of the police and be left holding the bag, with his bank account closed and his assets frozen, at least until it can be sorted out what proportion of those assets have been acquired through involvement in money laundering. The sad thing is that the victim may honestly believe he has a legitimate job for a legitimate company, hard though that is to understand for anyone with a modicum of healthy scepticism. Of course that doesn’t mean the scammer won’t demand some sort of advance fee in order to get a little extra profit, as in fact I’ve seen 419 versions that are probably more interested in scamming the recipient than in real money laundering.”
How does the scam part usually work then? The victim receives an uncovered cheque or other counterfeit proof of payment to themselves, while they are expected to forward on their actual funds immediately. By the time they get confirmation they didn’t actually receive anything from the scammers and that the checque or other proof of payment is worthless, they have already parted with their own money via the untraceable Western Union and the scammers walk away with a hefty profit.
ESET’s spam filter should limit the amount of such scams you receive, but some may also arrive through Facebook messages, chat or phone texts. In either case, use common sense if you receive them, do not reply to any of them and warn your friends to be careful too.