Email scams attempt to fool innocent computer users out of their
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 three
men pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1.2 million.
The federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York heard the men admit
to charges that they targeted computer users by pretending they had
won millions of dollars in a lottery or were due to inherit a
fortune. In one of the more elaborate scams perpetrated by the
gang, the men also sent emails which claimed to come from a victim
of terminal throat cancer who wanted to distribute $55 million to
charity. One of the gang, Nnamdi Chizuba Ainsiobi, is then said to
have telephoned recipients, disguising his voice to pretend he was
that suffering from the disease.
31-year-old Ainsiobi (who went by pseudonyms such as "Yellowman"
and "Jiggaman"), 34-year-old Anthony Friday Ehis (who sometimes
called himself "Mr T"), and Kesandu Egwuonwu were arrested in
Amsterdam two years ago, and subsequently extradited to the United
"Most people with an email account have probably received emails
claiming that they have won a fortune, or asking them to enter a
business relationship to move funds out of a country, but these are
almost always con-tricks being perpetrated by unscrupulous
scammers," explained Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant for Sophos. "It may be hard to believe that
people fall for this type of crime, but sadly there are vulnerable
and naive people out there who do hand over their information and
money to criminals. These three men stole over $1.2 million with
their scam emails, proving that there are still plenty of people
waiting to have their bank accounts emptied by criminals on the
The US Department of Justice published
information about the men's crimes.
Anisiobi and 35-year-old Egwuonwu are both citizens of Nigeria,
whereas Ehis comes from Senegal. A fourth defendant, Lenn
Nwokeafor, was arrested by the Nigerian Economic & Financial
Crimes Commission in July 2006 and is awaiting extradition to the
"Although this kind of email scam can come from anywhere in the
world, Western Africa is a hub for this kind of activity where a
cottage industry of 'Letters from Nigeria' has flourished over the
years," continued Cluley. "The advice for all internet users is not
to believe everything you read in your email."
Last week, Sophos published its Security
Threat Report 2008, which included details of other
cybercriminals who have been sentenced in the last 6 months.
The email con-tricks, known as a 419 scam, are named after the
relevant section of the Nigerian penal code where many of the scams
originated and are unsolicited emails where the author typically
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
Other examples of 419 email scams include a message claiming to
come from a US Sergeant
serving in Baghdad, the grandson of the
late General Pinochet, Christian workers offering a puppy being
offered for adoption, and even an African astronaut stranded on
the Mir spacestation.
Sophos recommends companies protect their desktops, servers and
gateways with a consolidated solution to
thwart the threats of viruses, spyware, phishing, hackers and