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Hotmail hack punts person in peril scam

Attacked by Nigerian Arm Robbers

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The Lads from Lagos have apparently expanded their repertoire to incorporate hacking into Hotmail accounts.

Fraudsters broke into the account of a Register reader's colleague to punt a person in peril scam.

It's a far more subtle scam than offering promises of wealth for minimal effort to the credulous. Instead of receiving a message from a stranger, would-be marks receive an electronic message from someone they know, but who is in apparent need of help.

Hacking into someone's email account, impersonating them and pleading for money from their contacts is far from a perfect scam. For one thing there's the question of how a person ended up being in West Africa, where money is to be sent, in the first place. Than there's the troubling detail of why their knowledge of grammar and punctuation has forsaken them, as can be seen by a copy of the email scam below (details obfuscated to protect the innocent).

How are you today? I went to Nigeria for a program called (Empowering students to handle conflicts and promote peace in West Africa).And i was attacked by Arm Robbers Please i Nigeria and with that shock i was taking to the Hospital and was admitted in the Hospital for three days now. I have just recovered from the shock and now am very stranded Please because my wallet was stolen by the robbers and my ATM card and other valuable things like my I'D card is missing along with the wallet.

The Problem now is so bad because i have to pay for my hotel bill and the Hospital bill with my Flight ticket back to the ***business name***,The robbers have taking all i have as i do not even have my ATM card to get quick cash and get the bills paid, Please at this point i really need your help urgently to help me send money and i promise to return the money as soon as i return to the ***business name***.

Please you will help me send $4500 to help me pay all this bills, I need to hear from you soon so that I will send you my personal information you will use in sending the money to me through Western Union Or MoneyGarm,I know Western union or MoneyGram will allow me use my international passport to collect the money Please,Please be rest assured that I will pay back the money as soon as i arrive ***location of business*** by Monday And,And please understand that your help is much needed right now because am very stranded.

Waiting to hear from you.

Thanks for the effort

We were alerted to the scam, an apparently new variant of social engineering attacks, by Reg reader Andy.

"This may be one-off incident, but as I suspect not. My colleague's Hotmail account has been hacked by some lads in Lagos (literally - the originating IP address resolves to an ISP in Lagos) - and it's entertaining regardless. In any case, they have been sending emails in said colleague's name, claiming to have been attacked in Lagos and needing financial support,"

Andy said his colleague had never being to Nigeria.

"She's in Paris, not Lagos, sitting in her apartment trying to get Hotmail to give her the account back," he added.

But how was the Hotmail account compromised is the first place?

Infection by a Trojan keylogger is one likely scenario or its possible that hackers guessed her password via a dictionary attack.

"She's a middle-aged woman with a Windows box who isn't particularly tech-savvy, and I don't know if she has somebody who keeps the machine updated. I don't know if Hotmail logins are vulnerable to dictionary attacks, but I'll bet that she doesn't use strong passwords," Andy told us.

The subject of the scam email recruits students and is not a motivational speaker, as the scam email suggests. One possible problem with the scam is how to collect money sent by potential marks, who are unlikely to have false documents for the subject of the scam, a person they've never met.

"I'm guessing that the next stage may be to get a 'hospital worker' or 'colleague' to collect the funds with a fake ID, or a corrupt official to assist. I'd personally have gone for somebody with better English to start with, but there again, I'm not a 419er," Andy adds. ®

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