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Fraudsters limber up for World Cup themed scams

Can I click it? Yes you can (but probably shouldn't)

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Fraudsters as well as footballers are gearing up for this month's World Cup extravaganza in South Africa.

Football governing body FIFA has already warned supporters to be wary over various forms of scams that are likely to crop up in the run-up to the start of the tournament, which kicks off in ten days.

FIFA lottery, prize draw or competition scams are likely to abound. All represent types of advanced fee fraud where fraudsters attempt to trick people into paying "administrative fees" supposedly needed to secure non-existent World Cup tickets or cash prizes.

"Prize draws and competitions offering tickets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup can only be held by companies who are commercially affiliated with FIFA, such as, for example, sponsors," it said.

FIFA also used the notice to issue a warning against ticket touts and unauthorised agents, a more standard message that has preceded every recent World Cup.

Spam emails touting 419-lite lottery scams themed around the World Cup are already in circulation (as recorded by Trend Micro here and here). More can be expected to follow as excitement builds toward the start of the tournament next month.

Security watchers report that scam emails seen thus far have not been sent through botnet networks of compromised PCs but via direct spamming from known Nigeria-based 419 scam-friendly IP addresses.

Search engine manipulation, themed around events at the World Cup and designed to divert users searching for video clips and news towards scareware portals, is also likely to crop up, among other types of malware attack, especially once the tournament kicks off.

MessageLabs, Symantec's hosted security division, has already begun intercepting World Cup-themed email-borne malware attacks. Infected email blocked by MessageLabs were sent from an IP address in Macau, China, and composed in Portuguese (targeting fans of Brazil and Portugal). The infected messages posed as emails from one of the event's soft drink sponsors.

Football fans receiving the email were encouraged to download a hacking tool that posed as a football-themed application.

“Once downloaded and activated, the malware produces files that generate pop-up messages and in the background collects information on what other machines are on the same network, enabling the attacker further access to the compromised networks,” explained Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence senior analyst.

Symantec has set up a dedicated website that aims to track and warn football fans about net threats connected with the World Cup, as they arise. 2010NetThreat will also feature security advice, competitions and news on the tournament itself. ®

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