The year is 2006. I’m complaining on my blog about businesses training their customers to fall for phishing attacks.

The year is 2011. I’m complaining on my blog about businesses training their customers to fall for phishing attacks.

The year is 2022. I’m complaining on my blog about businesses training their customers to fall for phishing attacks.

Corporations haven’t learned. Unfortunately, their customers have learned from all this training. And so has the fraud industry. Even if you’re usually savvy about this sort of thing, you can get caught up if the circumstances put you just off-balance enough to line up the holes in each overlapping layer of security.

I trusted this fraudster specifically because I knew that the outsource, out-of-hours contractors my bank uses have crummy headsets, don’t know how to pronounce my bank’s name, and have long-ass, tedious, and pointless standardized questionnaires they run through when taking fraud reports. All of this created cover for the fraudster, whose plausibility was enhanced by the rough edges in his pitch – they didn’t raise red flags. Cory Doctorow on “Swiss-cheese security.”

And here I am, in 2024, complaining on my blog about…well…you know.

My jaw just dropped at this advance fee fraud scam that showed up in the spamtraps this week. The whole thing is about how the reason you haven’t gotten your funds is because you’ve been dealing with fraudsters who have been impersonating Nigerian diplomats, police, etc., and how could you possibly be so naive?…oh, and if you’ll send me your personal information and bank details, I’ll make sure the real police clear things up so you can get your payment.

Seriously. Does this technique actually work?

Actual text of the email below the cut:

Continue reading

There’s something delicious about irony in spam. Yesterday, the spamtraps netted an advance fee fraud scam message that started out like this:

Let me be honest with you. This information is just for you alone [emphasis added]. I would suggest that you try to fix it instead of making any trouble with it as my job might be put on the line here.

Your name has been on an awaiting list of payment roaster submitted by the Nigerian Government For your lottery/inheritance reasons of no banking particulars on which transfer should be made to until two days ago when the paying Bank personnel brought in another payment roaster for the replacement of the former that had your name on it.

The funny part? (Well, aside from the “payment roaster.”) There were about 300 recipients in the To: line.

Gee, I don’t think all 300 people have the same account info…

Most spam doesn’t run into this problem, since it’s generated by special programs that don’t even bother filling in complete headers. But from what I understand, a lot of 419 scams are still sent by people sitting in internet cafes, copying and pasting bits from templates. So it’s easy to imagine someone pasting their list into the wrong field. Kind of like the classic “Reply All” fiascos.

I just spotted an advance fee fraud pitch in the spamtraps that started out with the greeting: Dear Trusting Friend.

I suppose the scammer could have meant “trusted friend,” which is still odd for an introduction, but makes a little more sense. Of course, if you take “trusting” to the extreme—i.e. gullible—you’ve just described the type of mark they’re looking for.

As a bonus: only two* of the ~270 Google hits for the phrase is not a reference to 419-style letters using the same opening. People just don’t write things like that normally, which makes it a pretty good indicator.

*I didn’t look at all 270, but there were only 30 hits by the time Google filtered out duplicates. And most of those were clearly recognizable just from the excerpt on the search results pages. For the record, both of the two non-scam hits used it as a description, not a greeting.

I just spotted a rather disturbing phishing message in (of all places) our abuse contact mailbox:

Subject: Fraud Prevention Measures

Dear customer!

Due to high fraud activity we constantly increasing security level both for online banking and card transactions. In order to update our records you are required to call MBNA Card Service number at 1-800-[removed] and update information on your MBNA card.

This is free of charge and would not affect any transactions with your card. Please note this is necessary to provide highest security level for all transactions with your card.

No HTML tricks. No links to fraudulent websites. Just a phone number.

I can only assume this is a response to high-profile inclusion of antiphishing features in Internet Explorer 7 and in Firefox 2. If there’s no website, there’s nothing for a web browser to check.

And of course by not using sneaky technical tricks in the message, it’s harder for tools like ClamAV, spam filters, or mail clients to detect.

Incidentally, does anyone else find it ironic that one of the most common phishing techniques is to exploit people’s fear of being phished?

Further reading: Anti-Phishing Working Group.