Email scammers use BBC news story in latest lure

Sophos has reminded computer users of the danger of email scams following an attempted financial fraud which posed as a communication from the grandson of the late General Pinochet, former military dictator of Chile. The message includes a web link to a BBC News story about General Pinochet’s funeral in an attempt to add credibility to the story.

The emails, which arrive with the subject line “President of chile who died” claim to be sent by Captain Augusto Pinochet Molina, who was discharged from the Chilean army after making an unauthorised speech at his grandfather’s burial in December 2006. According to the emails, Captain Pinochet is seeking help to hide his family’s fortunes from the authorities.

“Millions of scam emails like this are being sent to internet users every day, and it’s hard to believe that anyone still falls for these confidence tricks. However, the trick of linking to high profile news sites like the BBC is sadly often enough to make people believe the scam and put their finances in danger by corresponding with the cybercriminals. Everyone with an email address should be on their guard,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “It’s time everybody learned not to believe everything they receive via email, but to take messages such as this with a pinch of salt.”

Sophos notes that elements of the email are factually accurate.

“General Pinochet did die in December 2006, and his grandson was dismissed from the army after an incident at the funeral, but that doesn’t mean that people should believe everything else in the email and hand over personal information,” continued Cluley. “The best liars sprinkle their tales with truths to fool people into believing them. Internet users need to wise up to these kinds of tricks to prevent themselves from being suckered in and having their identity, and potentially finances, stolen.”

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 where the author 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 theft.