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Network World - Online scams continue to be the scourge of the Internet and there seems to be no end to the “imagination” of these criminals. As part of its annual wide-ranging look at Internet crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took a look at the top Internet scams of 2009.
“The figures contained in [the FBI's] report indicate that criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the Internet. They are also developing increasingly sophisticated means of defrauding unsuspecting consumers. Internet crime is evolving in ways we couldn’t have imagined just five years ago,” said National White Collar Crime Center Director Donald Brackman in the report. Annual crime complaints reported to Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) have increased 667.8% between 2001 and 2009.
According to the FBI and the IC3 Web site, the “popular scam trends for 2009” included hitman scams, astrological reading frauds, economic scams, job site scams, and fake pop-up ads for antivirus software.
From the report, here’s a look at the top Internet scams of 2009:
Fake Pop-up Ads for Anti-Virus Software
One of the truly nasty scams involves pop-up ads for rogue anti-virus software. Victims reportedly receive ads warning them of the existence of threatening viruses and/or illegal content allegedly found on the victim’s computer. When victims click on the fake pop-ups, malicious code is downloaded. Victims are directed to purchase anti-virus software to repair their computers, but in some instances this resulted in viruses, Trojans, or key loggers downloaded onto their computers. Attempts to contact the anti-virus software companies were unsuccessful. The IC3 says that users who see these unexpected antivirus pop-up warnings should shut down their browsers or their computers immediately and then run an antivirus scan to see what's going on. The FBI says these scammers have made more than $150 million in the past year.
The online “hitman” scammer who threatens to kill recipients if they do not pay thousands of dollars to the sender, is still sending out thousands of emails. Two new versions of the scheme began appearing in July 2008, the FBI said. One instructed the recipient to contact a telephone number contained in the e-mail and the other claimed the recipient or a "loved one" was going to be kidnapped unless a ransom was paid. Recipients of the kidnapping threat were told to respond via e-mail within 48 hours. The sender was to provide the location of the wire transfer five minutes before the deadline and threatened bodily harm if the ransom was not received within 30 minutes of the time frame given. The recipients' personally identifiable information was included in the e-mail to promote that appearance that the sender actually knew the recipient and their location, the FBI said. In some instances, the use of names, titles, addresses, and telephone numbers of government officials, business executives and/or victims' personal information are used in an attempt to make the fraud appear more authentic, the FBI stated. Victims of this e-mail are typically instructed to send the money via Western Union or Money Gram to a receiver in the United Kingdom.