Spam leaves bitter taste

We've all received the occasional email from a wealthy Nigerian businessman who's promising to transfer us 10m quid if we'll only hand over our bank details – and probably wondered how anyone could fall for it. But the scary news is that email spammers could be getting smarter...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

An 80-year old widow from Bridgend in Wales was conned into handing over £16,000 by dastardly spammers, according to the BBC. Apparently they wrote to the woman telling her that she was the only surviving relative of a wealthy German businessman killed in the Concorde crash, and was therefore entitled to a $30m inheritance. Over the course of their exchange, they persuaded her to shell out up to £16,000 in pre-payments – and it was only when they asked her to remortgage her house to raise another £10,000 that the alarm was raised.

The set-up may not have been particularly clever in itself – for instance, the victim was told that the crash happened in Germany, when it actually happened in Paris – but this was still a cut above most of these phishing efforts. For a start it was actually written properly, rather than in broken English on a computer where the Caps Lock appears to be broken. It was certainly official-looking enough to fool someone who had seen the odd Nigerian spam email before.

As PC Steve Carpenter told the Beeb: ‘She's 80-years-old but was quite internet aware, aware of junk mail but this one was quite well written, well presented and got her attention’.

We all probably consider ourselves far too clever to fall for something like this. But with people seemingly inclined to believe all kinds of nonsense that they read on the internet – according to a survey by Oxford University this year, people consider the web to be more trustworthy than TV or newspapers, believe it or not – the challenge of keeping your personal information secure is likely to get a lot tougher than it is today. There’s bound to be criminals out there with enough imagination to invent an online scam clever enough to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

Although our guess is that these people are probably not going to come from Nigeria...

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