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Email 'get rich quick' scams double in October

Smut and gambling promos take a dive

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Incidence of email "get rich quick" scams more than doubled (albeit from a low base) last month, according to email security firm Clearswift. It warns surfers to disregard spurious "work from home opportunities" received via junk mail which are normally designed to lure naive users into criminal enterprises. After accounting for 0.5 per cent of spam emails in September these work at home scams made up 1.2 per cent of junk emails caught in a Clearswift's sieve last month.

These so-called opportunities typically come in two flavours. The first involves accepting delivery of goods paid for with a stolen credit card, then forwarding them further along the chain, and the second is a simple money-laundering role where the "worker" acts as a laundering mule.

Older get rich scams involving share tips are still much more commonplace. Here so-called experts advise would-be investors to back certain shares in an attempt to raise the price to a level where the perpetrators can pull out having made a quick buck. "In a similar manner to the investments themselves, penny shares are a very volatile spam category, rising and falling heavily over time. This October, these have almost trebled in volume to count almost a third of all spam," Clearswift notes.

As "get rich quick" scams have increased in prevalence other categories, including phishing fraud and pornographic junk mail, have taken a nose-dive, according to Clearswift's latest monthly spam index. Phishing - where crooks set up a fake banking websites in order to gather credit card details of gullible users - has suffered a decline, now accounting for only 0.4 per cent of all unsolicited mail. Clearswift reckons greater awareness of the existence of phishing scams has contributed to their decline.

This rise in stocks and potentially illegal employment scams comes as other traditional tricks decline in popularity, notably the advance fee fraud (419) scam emails. The decreased incidents of 419 scam emails has happened despite efforts by the Lads from Lagos to diversify and send mails ostensibly from different countries - including China, Indonesia and Russia - and different business types as well as the familiar pleading letters from the families of ousted West African generals.

Continuing a recent trend, pornographic spam has plummeted by over half during October, and gambling promotions have all but disappeared. ®

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