Thought for the day: Caught by the net?

Don't be taken in by the scams among your spam, warns Simon Moores.

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Don't be taken in by the scam hiding among your spam in your inbox, warns Simon Moores.





For evidence of the theory of natural selection at work in a digital world, you need look no further than the most recent study from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI reports that the number of fraud complaints, requiring law enforcement agency action, has tripled since 2001, estimating the loss to victims of reported internet fraud as being $54m in 2002, a significant leap from the $17m in the previous year.

Other than rocketing levels of identity theft, one crime that continues to attract the legions of the credulous is the Nigerian "401" advance fee fraud.

In the US, 16,164 people seriously believed that a relative, of one or other of an honour roll of dead African dictators, was prepared to deposit several hundred million dollars of non-existent government money in their bank accounts in return for a 20% commission and as a consequence, lifting the stupidity figures up 500% from 2001.

In the UK, we aren’t quite as gullible as the Americans, bless them, but the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), reveals that 150 of our less gifted citizens fell for the scam last year, for a grand total of £8.4m.

This news goes some way towards explaining why I receive at least one of these e-mail offers each day and sometimes two.

To be honest, unless it’s from a known and trusted source, any offer I receive over the internet goes into the trashcan with the rest of the spam, which is, as we know, a huge problem in its own right.

You might have thought that nobody with an ounce of intelligence would respond to, or even vaguely trust, the source of the rubbish that arrives in their inboxes each day but they do and they continue to be taken to the cleaners in ever-increasing numbers.

This probably says more about human nature than it does about the technology, but talk to the law enforcement agencies and they will tell you that the internet represent the new Wild West for organised crime and the Inland Revenue.

The drugs cartels, in particular, I’m told are "investing" heavily in internet portfolios because e-business is good business and rarely if ever, carries 20 years to life imprisonment if you’re caught. It's more likely three months' probation and the confiscation of your server if they can find it, that is.

So, my advice - and I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted - is trust no one. Nothing is what it seems and, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see that Iraq still has some internet connectivity remaining as I have an e-mail from a certain Farouk Al-Bashar from Iraq, who tells , that his "family has acquired huge sums of money from royalties for the exploration of oil" which they managed to keep hidden from Saddam Hussein and his "gangs of bandits".

Farouk would like my bank details so he can transfer the money to my account for safekeeping, in return for a generous commission. Between us, I think we can help rebuild his country and his family’s fortunes. Don't you?

What do you think?

What internet scams have you found? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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