Ten Nigerians arrested in Spain for email lottery scam

February 18, 2008 Sophos Press Release
Lottery numbers
Scam emails can claim that recipients have won a fortune in a lottery.

IT security and control firm Sophos has reminded computer users about the danger of internet scams following the arrest of ten people in Spain alleged to have defrauded victims via an email lottery scam.

The ten people, all Nigerian nationals, are suspected of making more than 19,000 Euros ($28,000) in three months by demanding payments from innocent internet users who believed they had won a lottery.

Police report that the emails sent by the suspects were sent from the Teatinos area of Malaga in Spain, by piggybacking on a neighbour's wi-fi internet connection without permission. Seven arrests were made in Malaga, and three more in Huelva province.

"If an email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Emails scams like this arrive in the inboxes of many every day of the week, all around the world - and clearly some people are falling for them," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It sounds like the authorities were able to shut down this scam quite quickly before too many people were affected - but there are plenty more cybercriminals looking for ways to steal people's identities and rob their bank accounts."

Sophos experts note that Malaga is no stranger to Nigerian-run email scams. In 2005, 310 people were arrested in Malaga in what was said to be the biggest ever bust of a lottery scam gang. The arrests followed an investigation by the FBI and Spanish police into a scam run by Nigerian gangs.

Sophos believes that the police claims that the gang used an innocent party's internet connection to send their bogus lottery emails, underlines the importance of properly securing wireless access points at home.

"If you haven't properly secured your wi-fi connection at home you are effectively leaving the front door open for anybody close by to take advantage of it," continued Cluley. "Everyone running a wireless access point needs to learn how to stop unsavory characters from using it to spew out their spam messages, download illegal content, or steal information."

Sophos experts recommend that computer users be wary of all unsolicited emails, and protect their email gateways with a consolidated product to defend against spam, phishing, viruses and spyware.