"Who wants to be a millionaire?" email scam attempts to defraud internet users

January 26, 2007 Sophos Press Release

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have warned internet users of a new email scam that pretends to be a lottery notification from the makers of the hit TV gameshow "Who wants to be a millionaire".

The email claims that the recipient has won £800,000 in a lottery run by the TV show which has been a hit around the world, and asks for the claimant to reply with their personal information in order for the winnings to be transferred.

The email poses as a bogus lottery notification from the makers of 'Who wants to be a millionaire'

The email poses as a bogus lottery notification from the makers of "Who wants to be a millionaire"

"This scam has nothing to do with the real makers of the hit TV show, but has been designed by criminals to prey on the vulnerable. It may claim to offer you a fortune in prize money, but the scammers behind the scheme don't want to give you that," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The chance of an unsolicited lottery notification like this being genuine are much less than the 50:50. You don't need to phone a friend to work that out."

The email tells recipients to contact a yahoo.co.uk email address, and also lists two UK 070 personal phone numbers for people who wish to make contact via telephone or fax. Last week Sophos revealed that 070 telephone numbers are frequently used by lottery scammers who can redirect calls using the system to any phone number in the world.

"It's time that the British authorities took steps against the widespread use of 070 telephone numbers by email lottery scammers," continued Cluley. "Criminals are scooping up these free 070 personal phone numbers, redirecting them overseas, and using them to con the British public out of their money and confidential information."

This week Sophos published its annual Security Threat Report, which detailed many of the different disguises used by email scammers in their attempts to commit identity theft and swindle money out of internet users.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of spam, spyware and malware. In addition, employees should be educated about the importance of safe computing.