By now, even inexperienced computer users are familiar with the “419 email scams,” which try to convince the recipient that the sender is an African prince, under siege and trying desperately to get his vast fortune out of the country.
With last week's violent death of long-time Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi, scammers are using the circumstances of his death and the wide publicity it has received to tweak the scam a bit. As a result, in-boxes around the world are now receiving a email that claims to be from one of Gaddafi's former associates who – you guess it – needs your help in moving a vast fortune outside the now rebel-controlled country.
The message purports to be from Muhammad Ali (no, not THAT Muhammad Ali) and bears the subject line “TOP SECRET MY FRIEND – Regarding late leader Moammar al-Gaddafi.
Losing the war but winning the money
“From your heart, accept this offer, as we have lost the battle,” the message begins.
In the message, the writer claims to have been Gaddafi's “chief defender officer” who fled the country when his boss was killed and is now hiding in an undisclosed European country. He has with him, he says, a small fortune given to him by Gaddafi to use to buy weapons to carry one the resistance. Now that the war is lost, he says, he must do something with the three million euros entrusted to him. That's where you come in.
“As the battle is over, I want to give you the secret deposit key of this fund to make this claim, and use 70 percent of the fund to establish good investment that can benefit both of us in the country of your choice,” the message reads.
Pulling on heartstrings
The remaining 30 percent is to be used, the message says, to set up an orphanage, since the former security chief says he has found God and lost his family in the war. It instructs the recipient to contact “a lawyer” in Spain, who will explain how to proceed – presumably with paying a significant fee or providing access to your bank account.
“You may think it's crazy that anyone would ever fall for such an email, but remember there are people who are vulnerable or elderly who might be tricked into believing that the offer is real - and end up losing a lot of money as a result,” said Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos security software.