Telefónica fights 419 lottery tsunami

Won a Spanish sweepstake lately?

Spanish telecom operator Telefónica says it will work with the police to try and stop the problem of Nigerian scammers operating out of internet cafes and sending thousands of sweepstake scam letters.

This week the Abusive Hosts Blocking List - which tracks spam sources, spam friendly providers and other hosts which pose a risk to the Internet - announced it had blocked nearly all of Telefónica's IP space because of the "ever increasing amount of spam and illegal 419" originating from Spain. Telefónica says these mails are sent from internet cafes and are difficult to control.

Almost daily mailboxes all over the world are filled with emails from Madrid, congratulating punters with a "lump sum payout" in sweepstakes lotteries such as El Gordo la Primitiva, which also happens to be the name of a real lottery in Spain. Naturally, there is no prize and scammees are invited pay certain "expenses" before the funds can be released.

Last year, Madrid police broke up a fraud ring that cheated hundreds of victims out of $35m through sweepstakes. A total of 103 people, mostly Nigerians, were arrested during raids in and around Madrid. The ring allegedly swindled 500 people, often residents of the US and Canada.

Unfortunately, that bust didn't put an end to the amount of scam mails sent through Telefónica’s network. In February, The Bank of Spain, Spain's central bank, had to warn that its name was being fraudulently used in Nigerian lottery scams. Victims were told they had won a prize deposited in an account with the Bank of Spain, even though they had never participated in a lottery.

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