Y2K Scare and Scams

The Y2K scare — and other scams:
Internet ScamBusters #30

Internet ScamBusters Snippets

Y2K Scams
With all the focus on the Y2K problem lately, it’s hardly surprising that scamsters are using the fear, uncertainty, doubt and confusion about Y2K on unsuspecting… and naïve… individuals for their own unscrupulous purposes.

The following two emails illustrate an important point, regardless of whether it’s related to Y2K or not:

NEVER give out personal information, such as your bank account or credit card numbers, to people who call you over the phone and ask for this information.

Furthermore, it’s virtually impossible to imagine a legitimate bank calling its customers and saying it is having severe Y2K compliance problems, requesting *oral* authorization (since they’d want the paper trail for their protection as well as yours), and asking you to transfer your money elsewhere.

Finally, we weren’t sure if this was real or another email hoax. But, we thought the advice was good anyway. However, we were just interviewed about this scam and the author faxed us a press release from a detective in the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office in Port Orchard, WA. This detective says he was notified by a local bank officer about this scam.

So, here’s the first email:

“I got a call from a man this weekend telling me he represented my bank and that they were having difficulty meeting requirements to be computer ready for Y2K. He said all bank customers would need to transfer their accounts to a bond account specially designed to protect our money until the bank could fully comply with Y2K requirements.

“He then said to verify that he was talking to the proper account person I needed to confirm information about myself, my account numbers and then give verbal authorization to transfer funds to this specially designed account.

“I don’t trust folks who do this kind of thing so I asked him which of the banks I use did he represent. He was not able to do that and hung up at that point. <snip>

“This is a huge scam that is going on all across the country. Some people would be scared to think they would lose all their money (which he said was sure to happen if I didn’t do this now) and would supply the information without first checking this out.

“I notified the phone company of the call – since I have caller ID, I could give them a number but the identifier just said ‘out of area.’ It came from a 248 area code which is around Detroit. Anyway, just passing this along so you’d be aware and beware. Have a good day.”

And here’s another variant of this scam:

“The caller had a very cultured, educated voice and started out by asking me if I knew what the Y2K problem was. When I said I did, he asked me if I had any concerns about the American banking industry when ‘It’s obvious that many American banks will fail because of the Year 2000 problem.’ He went on to describe in Yourdonish detail bank failures and the collapse of the stock market (‘the Dow Jones will probably fall to around 500 by January 31, 2000’).

“The caller then went on to tell me that he represented a securities company that was setting up a special Y2K bond fund to help consumers protect their money from bank failures. The money in our checking and savings accounts would be automatically transferred into this bond account, invested in safe government bonds, and returned by April 1, 2000 (‘just in time for April 15 <chuckle>’).

“He then started pressing me for details about my Social Security number, bank name, account numbers, etc. along with a verbal authorization to transfer the funds. When I asked that he send me a prospectus, he said that they were out and would call back when more were printed and hung up. I wonder how many others, especially the elderly and poorly informed, have been and will be defrauded by these kinds of calls.”

Internet Fraud Complaints Increase Dramatically
According to Internet Fraud Watch, operated by the National Consumers League, “complaints have increased 600 percent since 1997. Online auction complaints were the number one fraud complaint in 1998. Auctions were first in 1997 with 26 percent of the total frauds reported, but increased to an alarming 68 percent in 1998.”

FTC announces crack-down on online scams… 33 law enforcement actions against 67 defendants.
The FTC announced yesterday it was cracking down on “get rich quick” pyramid schemes on the Internet. “We’re committed to taking on the con artists who think they can use the Internet to promote illegal schemes,” said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

Email Hoaxes
Here’s an excellent article on email hoaxes called “I Swear It’s All True – CNET’s Favorite Hoaxes” by Matt Lake of CNET. CNET ranks their 10 “favorite” hoaxes. If you’ve missed any of these, it is definitely worth a visit.
http://www.cnet.com/Content/Reports/Trends/Nethoaxes/index.html

Email “Worm” Warning
(For Windows users)

99.9% of emails like this are bogus. This one is real.

If you receive an email with an attached file named “happy99.exe,” please do not run the file. Although it doesn’t (apparently) cause physical damage to the drive, it installs itself into your system directory by copying a certain DLL, then convinces your mail program to send it out via emails and Usenet posts.

Just opening and reading the email message is not a danger, but don’t execute the attached file. For example, if it’s shown as a link in your email program, don’t click it.

If you find that you are infected, here are details on removing it:
http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/happy99.worm.html

Bottom line: Don’t open or run any email attachments unless you know exactly what they are.

Nigerian Fee Scam Variant
Here’s the latest variant on the Nigerian fee scam. Thanks to Guy for sending it along. I guess you can call this the “Congo scam.” We believe fewer people will be taken by this scam than the Nigerian fee scam, since this one sounds more dangerous. It is hard to imagine the logic: that the son of the former President, who is looking for someone he can trust, would send random emails to people he doesn’t know.

Do NOT respond to emails or phone calls like this under any circumstances. Please re-read the Nigerian Scam issue of Internet ScamBusters for the details.

Here’s the email (misspelled words have been left as is):

The President,

URGENT INVESTMENT PROPOSAL

I am Masala Mobutu Seseko the son of the former President of the Republic of Congo who died recently after the treachery of the Kabila insurgence.

I have in my possesion the Personal Identifiction Number (codes) and Password to a Security Vualt here Europe where there are two boxes containing the sum US$15million each beign part of my father’s estate which we were able to salvage during the subsequent passage out of my country.

The Kabila government is still seeking to freeze and confiscate any assets traceable to my Late Father or any member of his family,I am therefore looking for a partner who i can entrust with the codes and password to help me remove the boxes since no names were used to open the vault .You will in addition bank and invest(with my approval of the projects) as a FRONT for me , until the situation becomes more favourable.

If you are interested in a working partnersh
ip please call me immediatly to discuss in more details the Logistics and modalities.

I do not need to remind you the need for the utmost secrecy and confidentiality, if this transaction is to succeed.

Yours Faithfully
Masala.

A New Low in Spam/ Scam Tactics
Thanks to David for sending us this fraudulent threat against reporting spam abuse. It was reported in MacInTouch.

“Any report of this letter as spam to any independent agency or site is a violation of U.S. Bill S.1618 TITLE III of the U.S. Congress and will be dealt with promptly.”

Spam Outlawed by Second State in February
Virginia become the second state (California was first) to make sending fraudulent bulk email a crime. Read the story:
“http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2215823,00.html
(Many people question how enforceable these laws are.)