Cyber crooks: They're out to get you...

Internet users can receive a cash reward for forwarding messages to test a Microsoft/AOL e-mail tracking system. THIS TOOK TWO PAGES OF THE TUESDAY USA TODAY - IT IS FOR REALSubject: PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!!

Internet users can receive a cash reward for forwarding messages to test a Microsoft/AOL e-mail tracking system.

THIS TOOK TWO PAGES OF THE TUESDAY USA TODAY - IT IS FOR REAL

Subject: PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!! it was on GOOD MORNING AMERICA!!!! It was on the news! Kathy South Alcoa - EHS Maintenance Coordinator Phone: 765/771 - 3547 Pager : 765/420 - 6575

[To save space, I've deleted most of the text -- you've seen many variations of it before. The email ends as follows:]

For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. I thought this was a scam myself, But two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on. Microsoft contacted me for my address and withindays, I receive a check for $24,800.00. You need to respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can affoard this, Bill gates is the man.

The "beta test" must still be going on as this hoax message has been circulating around the Internet since at least 2004 -- however, causing no danger outside of contributing to the spam problem.

Real cyber criminals don't waste their time on hoaxes. You have probably received a variation of the infamous Nigerian email scam. Dubbed "419" or "advance fee fraud," the email recipient is promised millions of dollars in exchange for a small transfer fee.   

In his INBOX keynote "Cyber Crime: Using messaging to rip off innocent people and get rich," Richard Stiennon, CMO at Fortinet, delved into the exploits of the cyber crooks. The popularity of eHarmony and other legitimate "find your soul mate" sites have given rise to the 419 dating scams. After initiating a dialogue, perhaps about a sick relative, the scammer will engage in a pleasant exchange of email messages to gain the victim's trust. As Richard pointed out, the scammer falls in love with the victim, which sets the stage for the scam -- and ends when the infatuated victim sends money to his or her soul mate.

Cyber criminals can purchase phishing sites for less than $200 each -- a minimal investment that returns stolen identities. Here's how you can be victimized: 

Play Video
Phishing e-mail scam WKRC CBS 12 Cincinnati (WKRC) May. 31, 2007. 03:31 PM ET Scammers use fake Paypal link to get password
Play Video
Consumer Alert: E-Mail Phishing KGPE CBS 47 Fresno (KGPE) Apr. 30, 2007. 02:50 PM ET E-mails that look authentic, but are really designed to steal your personal information
Identity theft can occur through a hijacked instant messaging account. Cyber criminals are messaging media agnostic.

Good advice never grows old: 

  • If it looks too good to be true, it is.
  • If in doubt, check it out.