Experts at SophosLabs, Sophos’s global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centres, have stopped hundreds of messages related to an email scam that attempts to fool computer users into participating in a bogus business deal with a US military sergeant based in Baghdad.
The emails, which claim to come from Sergeant Richard Murphy based in Iraq, offer 50% of a claimed 8.5 million pound fortune. In a message reminiscent of the George Clooney Gulf War movie “Three Kings”, the sergeant is looking for assistance to move the fortune out of the war-torn country.
However, Sophos warns computer users that the emails are simply a ruse to try and steal money and personal details from respondents.
The emails, which have the subject line “Urgent and Confidential from Sgt Richard Murphy.” start with the following text:
‘I hope my email meets you well. I am in need of your assistance. My name is Sgt Richard Murphy, I am in the Military Engineering Unit here Baghdad, Iraq. We have about $15 Million US dollars that we want to move out of the country. My colleagues and I need a good partner, someone we can trust. This is a risk free and legal business (oil money).’
“With so many scam emails being sent to internet users every day, it’s hard to believe that anyone falls for such confidence tricks. However, innocent people risk putting their finances in danger if they correspond with these scammers, and all email users must stay on their guard,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “People need to be careful not to believe everything they receive via email, while ensuring that they have up-to-date spam defences in place.”
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 in which the author offers a large amount of money. Once a victim has been drawn in, the fraudster makes a request for private information, which may lead to further requests for money, stolen identities, and financial details.
Other exams of 419 email scams include a message claiming that that the recipient has inherited a fortune from the will of the late Sir Denis Thatcher, or from a victim of the July terrorist bombings in London.
Sophos recommends companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at the email gateway to defend against viruses and spam.