Thursday, January 24, 2008

NPR: Internet Scammers Find a New Approach

Advance fee fraud not giving enough of a return tell people to pay up or you will kill them (NPR audio).

This is not the very first time this has come up, I believe Bruce might have blogged it some months ago but could not find the link. But it is worth hearing the audio because the impact of the threat really comes across when you hear the target speaking.

The personal details mentioned in the threat were most likely obtained through the Web, people put all sorts of information about themselves up on facebook. And even if they don't use their name on the site their username is often similar to their email handle.

As a criminal approach goes it does not appear to me to have a high risk-reward ratio. A kleptocracy like Nigeria can tolerate financial frauds but it is rather harder to brush off complaints about death threats. Just as criminals always look for the most profitable, least effort attack, law enforcement are always going to concentrate efforts on the most egregious offenders they have an effective method of policing. That is why Internet chat room pedophiles attract so much attention.

From a prevention point of view this crime is somewhat different to regular advance fee fraud. We can reduce the profitability of the standard advance fee fraud by making it harder to send spam. But this appears to be a highly targetted, boutique attack.

Making a death threat raises the attack to a level that no local law enforcement can ignore. The extortion demand must be paid, traced and the perpetrators arrested.

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