Scammers capitalise on tough times

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The current financial climate is helping scammers behind fake lottery notifications achieve success.

This is according to Daniel Cuthbert, assessment manager at SensePost, who points out that many people who receive fake lottery notifications may have financial problems. “[An] e-mail with a quick solution (a lottery win of x thousands), could be seen as their way out,” he says.

According to Cuthbert, a user's response to spam is, for the most part, psychological. He says spam triggers a response to a situation. “It could be from your bank telling you that your account has been breached, or that some unknown lottery [wants] to give you a large payout.”

Kaspersky Lab says fraudulent lottery notifications account for 3% of all spam, translating into thousands of e-mails per month.

Maria Rubinstein, spam analyst at Kaspersky Lab, says that, in typical online lottery scams, recipients are asked to send a fee before their winnings can be paid out. She explains that this fee can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, adding that consumers feel this amount is insignificant when compared to their 'winnings'.

“However, once that 'fee' is paid, the fraudsters disappear, and the unwary user has little chance of ever finding them,” warns Rubinstein.

Spam giveaways

Rubinstein says there are some telltale signs that lottery notifications are spam. These include notification e-mails being sent from public mail servers, like Gmail and Yahoo. She adds that recipients should look out for poor spelling and grammar.

She says the e-mail is likely fake in instances where recipients of these notifications did not buy a lottery ticket, they are not addressed by name, or they are asked to reply to a different address from the sender's address.

Finally, Rubinstein says users can also use search engines to check the sender's name and telephone numbers.

Cuthbert advises that when it comes to spam, the saying 'if it's too good to be true, it most likely is' applies. “Before you click on the e-mail, or do anything with that SMS, think about what exactly is on offer. Did you really enter a lottery?”

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