Dutch police arrest suspected email scam gang

February 23, 2006 Sophos Press Release

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have reminded internet users to be on their guard against email scams as news breaks of a series of arrests in The Netherlands.

Dutch police have arrested 12 Nigerians suspected of being part of a gang who conned more than $2 million from unsuspecting Americans in an email scam designed to trick people into investing in non-existent money-making schemes.

According to a police statement, the gang sent more than 100,000 emails to potential victims, enticing them to hand over money advances.

Authorities detained the dozen suspects following police raids in Amsterdam and Zaandam, seizing computers, bank statements, forged passports and 25,000 Euros in cash.

"Many email users will be used to receiving dodgy sounding business propositions in their inbox, promising them a fortune. These schemes, however, only make money for the criminals behind them," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Everyone needs to be careful not to fall for this kind of confidence trick, or they could find themselves penniless."

The con-trick, commonly known as a 419 scam, is 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.

The four principal suspects will face extradition charges to bring them to the United States. The other eight are expected to stand trial in The Netherlands.

Sophos recommends that businesses protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend against the threats of spam, spyware and viruses; and that users exercise caution when receiving unsolicited emails.