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6 Miscellaneous

The Nigerian 419 scam

This one is old, real old. It used to be propagated through snail mail! The scam is that you receive a message from some person in a foreign country, often Nigeria, and he needs your help. He is (through some ethically dubious method) trying to get some huge amount of money, tens of millions of dollars, away from a company/government and he needs a contact in your country with a legitimate bank account so he can wire the funds out of his country. He says he will let you keep a (pretty large) cut of the money if you help. And all he needs is your name, phone number, bank account number, social security number, etc. etc. Needless to say, this is a BAD IDEA! Don't do it! This one hooks a lot of people and the scammers are allegedly netting millions of dollars a year from it. Whew. Send this one to uce@ftc.gov in addition to reporting it in the usual ways.

Viral marketing/pyramid scheme

This includes the MMF (Make Money Fast) type schemes. You send $5 to the people on the list, then put your name on it, etc. You will make thousands. Yeah, right. These do not work after the first couple of people on the list, and guess what, there are already a bunch of people on the list so you're too late. Don't fall for these - they are illegal almost everywhere. The best part is, the people usually include the names and addresses of several people taking part in the scam so you can actually report them to the police (...not that they will get arrested, but you never know).

Hoaxes and chain letters

These take many forms. Bogus virus warnings, or maybe they inform you that Bill Gates will give you money if you forward it to everyone you know. These messages are not exactly spam, but they have the same effect of clogging your inbox and mail servers in general.

I don't think I have EVER received one of these forwards that was actually true. Nothing bad will happen to you if you don't send it to everyone you know; nothing good will happen if you do! Please just delete it and tell your friends to stop sending them.

For a list of common e-mail virus hoaxes, check out Mcafee.com. For other hoaxes, check out sites like TruthOrFiction.com before forwarding it to anyone.

by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2002-05-24 12:08:34

Some e-mail servers are (mis)configured so that anyone in the world can use them to send e-mail messages. This is called an open relay. (A normally configured server only lets authorized users send messages, e.g., only AT&T customers can use AT&T e-mail servers.)

Spammers use these to send mass amounts of e-mails because they are harder to trace, and since they are not a customer of the people who run the server, they can't be punished.

Some people who run servers don't realize that they are doing anything wrong, and if you politely inform them of this fact, they will close the relays. If they are using MS Exchange 5.5, point them here and if they are using 6.0, point them here for instructions on how to fix the problem.

by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2002-05-20 23:16:20

In most cases, this is not really spam; this means that someone, somewhere has a mass-mailer virus.

Many viruses will send e-mails out with fake From: addresses, so it is hard to know just who is infected. The person almost never realizes that they are infected with a virus. Usually if you are getting it, it means you are in their address book.

If you can figure out who it is really from, let them know they are infected - but don't be rude about it, they are probably just clueless. They aren't sending you viruses on purpose to be mean! You might try sending them a link to a page about the virus and how to clean it up.

The exception to this rule is if you really pissed someone off and they decided to send you a bunch of viruses. But that isn't too common.

by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2002-05-20 23:16:00

Web bugs are images in e-mail that confirm that your e-mail address is real, and you have just read the e-mail by downloading the image.

You might not see them at times as they can be 1x1, and transparent. Other times they appear as any ordinary image, but the one thing you don't see all the time is the string they send when requesting the image from the server. It could be some random number assigned to your address on the server, or it could be obvious with your e-mail address in the request.

These are easily blocked by a firewall that allows you to control the ports per application. Others might not allow this, and only allow/block/drop the packets from that application so you would have to allow the web bug requests along with the request to send/receive your e-mail. The simplest way is to allow your pop3(tcp 110), smtp(tcp 25), and imap(tcp 143) ports if necessary. Most of the time web bugs use port tcp 80, but this port can vary so securing which ports the programs use is the easiest route. What can complicate this is software proxies, here you just make sure that your mail application is not allowed to run through your software proxy if possible.

Many programs allow you to turn off this feature. In Outlook Express you can force your messages to appear in text in your options, and that will take care of web bugs if you have not also done the firewall route.

Answer submitted by: Blitzenzeus

by dangme See Profile edited by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2003-03-28 23:34:21

Windows Messenger (and its sister program - MSN Messenger) are Instant Message clients, like ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger, that allow people to chat with one another across the globe. If you are wondering what the difference between Windows and MSN messenger are, another user has added a FAQ entry here to explain:

The Messenger Service is a service in Windows 2000 and XP that allows messages to be sent from a server to a workstation or from workstation to workstation over a network via the 'net send' command. Unfortunately, spammers figured out how to send spams via the service, and a recent flaw was discovered in the service that would allow a hacker to take control of the computer.

If you are one of the many people who has received pop-up spam via the messenger service, or you think you might be receiving it, there is another helpful FAQ entry here that will explain how it works and tell you how to stop it from happening again:

In a corporate environment, network administrators may use the messenger service to alert employees that a server is going down for maintenance, or they may set up a server to automatically send them a message when a virus is detected on a computer. Most home users have no need for the service, which is why so many sites suggest that it be disabled. In fact, Microsoft is going to disable the service by default in XP Service Pack 2, due out in summer of 2004.

Many news sites equate the two. They are not the same thing! Hackers cannot hack you because you use MSN or Windows Messenger, nor will disabling the Messenger Service prevent you from chatting.

by Daemon See Profile edited by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2003-12-14 08:58:11

Almost certainly, no. Reputable financial institutions don't ask for personal details in email nor send attachments - this is just asking for trouble and we hope you never fall for it.

If you've received something that purports to be from Citibank, please visit the main Citibank site and click on the "about e-mail fraud" link at the bottom of the page. Citibank does a pretty good job of keeping up with the latest scams: you can confirm and report yours via this page.

by Steve See Profile edited by Sarah See Profile
last modified: 2004-03-21 16:08:44