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17 Jan 2006

Beware bogus business deal from US military sergeant in Baghdad, Iraq

Email scammers ask for assistance in $15 million deal to share the spoils of war

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have stopped hundreds of messages related to an email scam that attempts to fool computer users into participating in a bogus business deal with a US military sergeant based in Baghdad.

The emails, which claim to come from Sgt Richard Murphy based in Iraq, offer 50% of a claimed $15 million fortune. In a message reminiscent of the George Clooney Gulf War movie "Three Kings", the sergeant is looking for assistance to move the money out of the war-torn country.

However, Sophos warns computer users that the emails are a ruse to steal money and personal details from people who respond to the message.

The emails, which have the subject line "Urgent and Confidential from Sgt Richard Murphy." start with the following text:

I hope my email meets you well. I am in need of your assistance. My name is Sgt Richard Murphy, I am in the Military Engineering Unit here Baghdad, Iraq. We have about $15 Million US dollars that we want to move out of the country. My colleagues and I need a good partner, someone we can trust. This is a risk free and legal business (oil money).

The scam email claims to come from a member of the US military in Iraq

The scam email claims to come from a member of the US military in Iraq.

"With so many of these scam emails being sent to internet users every day, it's hard to believe that anyone falls for these confidence tricks. But innocent people are at risk of putting their finances in danger if they correspond with scammers such as this, and everyone with an email address should be on their guard," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It's time everybody learned not to believe everything they receive via email, and ensure that they have up-to-date spam defenses in place."

This email con-trick is the latest of many 419 scams. These scams are named after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code where many of the scams originated and are unsolicited emails where the author offers a large amount of money. Once a victim has been drawn in, requests are made from the fraudster for private information which may lead to requests for money, stolen identities, and financial theft.

Other examples of 419 email scams include a message claiming to come from a persecuted widow of the late Nigerian head of state, an associate of the massacred Nepalese royal family, and even an African astronaut stranded on the Mir spacestation.

Sophos recommends companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at the email gateway to defend against viruses and spam.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.