Junk mail woes

Crime doesn’t pay, or then again maybe it does.

We have all seen the emails some time or another, in which some poor soul in Nigeria needs help moving his or her vast fortune out of the country.

Usually the email requests that you provide bank account information on company letterhead, and in return they will transfer the funds into your account for an advance fee.

It has been documented that some people have even gone so far as to travel to Nigeria to collect the funds, only to never be seen again. It is difficult to believe why any reasonable person would believe that this transaction is legitimate, but it does happen.

Just last year a Nigerian court sentenced a woman to two and half years in jail after she pleaded guilty to fraud charges in the country’s biggest email scam case to date.

One of three suspects involved in a $242 million dollar fraud involving a Brazilian bank, she was ordered to return $48.5 million to the bank, hand over $5 million to the government and pay $15,000 in fines. The sentencing by a Lagos high court was one of the first major convictions since the inception of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The three suspects, one who was the woman’s late husband, obtained the funds by promising a member of the bank staff a commission for funding a non-existent contract to build an airport in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

Email frauds have become so successful in Nigeria that one watchdog group claims that the activity is one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners after oil, natural gas and cocoa.

The group also ranks Nigeria second among the world’s most corrupt countries after Bangladesh.

The EFCC has fought back by arresting some 200 email fraudsters since its inception in 2003.

Following this, recent studies have also found that fraud and phishing type emails are one of the fastest growing areas of spam type emails. The studies also have claims that fraudulent emails account for some 8 per cent of the overall spam that arrives in users’ mailboxes.

By 2009 it is predicted that 81 per cent of global email traffic will be spam and about 12 per cent of the spam email will be fraud and phishing type emails.

The recent rise in email phishing attacks and increasing threats of fraudulent online activity are taking their toll on consumer confidence. One survey showed that westerners are more willing to pay additional fees for greater protection to quell increasing fears, according to new research from the Unisys Corporation.

On the other hand, comprehensive online fraud protection service is available to help combat the situation.

Monitoring of company-specific threats and fraudulent activities include unique threat detection services that address the entire life cycle of online protection: monitor, detect, analyse, and enforce. An effective anti-fraud programme is the key to protecting consumer confidence.

The analysis of consumer emails (those reporting suspicious email) allows businesses to automatically analyse emails from users who report suspicious activity.

Detection services are also available, and are not limited to a short list of specific languages but can now protect large global customers against attacks worldwide in any language. Early detection of fraudulent activities can help to prevent the spread of these types of emails. Detection of stolen credit cards and other personal information can help businesses prevent the loss of funds.

Users can also adopt some common practices to help avoid becoming a victim of a fraudulent email

Authenticate E-mail Messages: Never click on a link inside an email; rather type it into the web browser. Otherwise, call the company contacting you to verify the validity of the email and website link.

Use an up-to-date Browser: One browser that fights the most sophisticated schemes is Firefox (www.mozilla.org), but one can make their current browser as secure as possible by enabling it to automatically download security patches.

Monitor Accounts Monthly: Be sure to log into all financial accounts monthly to check statements and make sure all transactions are legitimate.

Wayne Green is a Consultant with Deloitte (Cayman) Enterprise Risk Services, performing IT assurance and information security services. For more information on how your organisation can better detect and improve awareness regarding fraudulent emails please contact Wayne at [email protected] or via + 1 (345) 814-2239.