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January 17, 2006

Sophos warns of Russian billionaire email scam

The increasing problem posed by identity fraud has again attracted attention, with yet another email scam having been unveiled by UK security company Sophos.

By CBR Staff Writer

Sophos’ global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers have stopped thousands of messages related to an email scam that attempts to fool computer users into thinking they are in line to receive money from a jailed Russian oil tycoon.

The emails, which claim to come from the personal secretary of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, offer almost $10 million if the email recipient will assist in the transfer of $46 million of Khodorkovsky’s fortune.

Sophos is warning computer users that this is a ruse to steal personal details, and that the fraudsters behind the scam campaign can use such information to steal money from bank accounts and commit identity fraud.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said, Originally we saw the scammers sending their messages about Khodorkovsky in Russian, but now they’re spreading their wings and sending their scam emails all around the world in English. The notoriety of the case against the Yukos CEO has made his fame a prime target for exploitation by internet criminals. Email users should be on their guard not to believe everything they receive via email, and ensure their spam defenses are kept up-to-date.

Sophos is recommending that companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at the email gateway to defend against viruses and spam.

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