Microsoft to Help Fight 419 Scammers

Microsoft is teaming up with the Nigerian government to help fight the 419 email scammers, with the 419 coming from the after the relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria. 419 scams have been around forever it seems like, and have scammed people out of billions of dollars. From the 419 Coalition website,

The Scam operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal by normal means. Common variations on the Scam include “overinvoiced” or “double invoiced” oil or other supply and service contracts where your Bad Guys want to get the overage out of Nigeria (Classic 419); crude oil and other commodity deals (a form of Goods and Services 419); a “bequest” left you in a will (Will Scam 419); “money cleaning” where your Bad Guy has a lot of currency that needs to be “chemically cleaned” before it can be used and he needs the cost of the chemicals (Black Currency 419) ; “spoof banks” where there is supposedly money in your name already on deposit; “paying” for a purchase with a check larger than the amount required and asking for change to be advanced (Cashier’s Check and Money Order 419); fake lottery 419; chat room and romance 419 (usually coupled with one of the other forms of 419); employment 419; and ordering items and commodities off “trading” and “auction” sites on the web and then cheating the seller. The variations of Advance Fee Fraud (419) are very creative and virtually endless, so do not consider the above as an all-inclusive list!

At some point, the victim is asked to pay up front an Advance Fee of some sort, be it an “Advance Fee”, “Transfer Tax”, “Performance Bond”, or to extend credit, grant COD privileges, send back “change” on an overage cashier’s check or money order, whatever. If the victim pays the Fee, there are often many “Complications” which require still more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both. If the victim extends credit on a given transaction etc. he may also pay such fees (“nerfund” etc.), and also stiffed for the Goods or Service with NO Effective Recourse.

We’ve all recieved them in one form or another, and even from different countries where some new enterprising individual is trying to replicate the success of the Nigerian 419 email scams. I recieve a couple a week I believe, could be more, I don’t remember if I have added any to my spam filer or not.

Microsoft will help the Nigerian government track down and prosecute the criminals involved. The EFCC has arrested more than 1,000 people, brought 300 prosecutions and seized a billion dollars in assets but this has only resulted in 17 convictions to date. From Silicon.com,

Microsoft will provide technical expertise, training and other security resources to Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which is tasked with fighting cyber crime in the country.

Nigeria was initially slow to respond to the problem of 419 email scammers operating in the country who were duping innocent internet users out of thousands of pounds by promising a share of the secret multimillion pound fortune of a deposed African dictator.

Sure they were slow, this scam is ranked as the 3rd to 5th largest industry in Nigeria, and monies stolen are almost never recovered from Nigeria. It’s about time this was cleaned up, and many other scams and illegal activities on the net, but we wont get into any others here.

“Nigeria is one country where there are examples of everything that is bad when it comes to technology,” he said. “It’s a big, big problem for us. 419 scams are still the main problem but we are also witnessing other problems such as credit card fraud and lottery scams as well as the hacking and cloning of websites.”

But Ribadu said that is now changing for the better with new legislation that allows the government to prosecute anyone helping to facilitate the scammers – from cyber caf? owners to ISPs.

Neil Holloway, president of Microsoft in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the agreement with the Nigerian government is part of Microsoft’s wider security strategy, which includes the rewards for bringing prosecutions against virus writers.

You go Microsoft, anything I can do to help, just let me know. ;)