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US airmen hornswoggled by Transformers email trick

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A US Air Force security training exercise which created a false buzz about the filming of Transformers 3 succeeded in creating awareness of phishing issues, but went a little further than was expected.

Bogus emails sent to airmen at the Anderson Airforce Base suggested Transformers 3 was about to shoot on Guam and made invitations to work on the film or appear as extras. This website asked for all sorts of sensitive information, which many willingly supplied without thinking twice.

The aim of the exercise was to embarrass those who had responded to the email, hopefully educating them to the perils of phishing and making sure it was far less likely that these personnel would respond to future real-life fraudulent pitches.

Unfortunately the scheme went awry after recipients of the email not only responded but told all their friends - readers on the forum of fan site Comicbookmovie.com - that Michael Bay's killer alien robot franchise was shipping up in the Pacific. The resulting galloping internet rumour eventually resulted in the local news media taking an interest in the supposed shooting.

In response to these inquiries, officials from Guam Air Force base's 36th Communications Squadron, which ran the security awareness exercise, were obliged to issue an official statement in a bid to clear up the confusion.

"Leadership from Andersen AFB regrets that there has been any confusion in the general public regarding this exercise phishing attempt," Andersen said in a statement, Computerworld reports. "We hope however that this will show that all individuals need to be careful about the real danger of phishing emails and that others can learn from this exercise."

The previous edition of the franchise, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, swept the boards at last year's Razzie Awards, scooping the Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture statuettes. It also grossed an estimated $836m on a $200m budget in spite of negative reviews, so ensuring a sequel will follow.

Transformers 3 is pencilled in for delivery in summer 2011. Locations include various part of the US as well as Africa, Russia, and China - but not Guam.

We can only hope the airmens' interest in the project stemmed from a possible chance to meet Megan Fox rather than a fascination with Optimus Prime and/or things blowing up very loudly. ®

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