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07 Jun 2006

Email scammer poses as Scottish Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport

Scam attempts to steal money and commit identity theft

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have warned of an email scam that pretends to come from the Scottish Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport.

The emails, which have the subject line "Greetings from Scotland.", have been spammed out to internet users claiming to come from Patricia Ferguson, a member of the Scottish Parliament. The emails requests the recipient's help in moving $40 million out of the United Kingdom "for safekeeping" and contain links to the MSP's personal website.

However, Sophos warns computer users that this is a ruse to steal personal details, and that the fraudsters behind the scam campaign can use such information to steal money from bank accounts and commit identity fraud.

The scam email claims to come Scottish MSP Patricia Ferguson

The scam email claims to come the Scottish Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Part of the email reads as follows:

I am Patricia Ferguson, Member of the Scottish Parliament(MSP) and the Scottish minister for culture, tourism and sport, my contact with you via this mail is as a matter of urgency and absolute confidentiality. This is by virtue of my status as a Member of the Scottish Parliament and particularly as the scottish minister for culture, tourism and sport.

I have executed a lot of project and contracts; i have also invested a lot in stock and shares in long-term basis. The benefit derived from the over estimated and invoiced contract, as well as the stock and shares amounted to forty million united states dollars (US$40, 000, 000) which i presently bank with "BARCLAYS BANK PLC" in my name(Patricia Ferguson MSP) and my reason for writting this letter is to pass this very professional brief to you, asking for your partnership in re-profiling, investment and securing this US$40 million outside the United-Kingdom for safekeeping this is because of my status as an MSP(Member of the Scottish Parliament) and particularly as the Scottish Minister for culture, tourism and sport; and to avoid been questioned by the british government.

"Not only are these scammers sullying the name of Patricia Ferguson, but they are also trying to take advantage of people's temptation to earn a small fortune for little effort. Internet criminals use a wide variety of tricks to try and steal sensitive data from computer users in their attempts to empty the public's bank accounts," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Email users should be on their guard not to believe everything they receive via email, and think before sharing their personal information with others."

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 space station.

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.