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E-mail Scams Seeking Charity for Disaster Victims from Singaporeans

Cyber criminals have again emerged, claiming association with the twin catastrophes in Myanmar and China, this time targeting Singaporeans with phony Websites and e-mail scams. Security specialists at the IT security company Sophos warned that the programs are an element of an international effort by con artists trying to take advantage of the recent cyclone and earthquake.

According to the researchers, these criminals are anticipating to capitalize on the kindness that the Singaporeans have demonstrated. Incidentally, Singaporeans have collected an estimated $23 Million for extending the aid to people struck in the natural calamities in May 2008.

Pretending as charities and victims, the scammers have been sending e-mails to Singaporeans with requests for money in relief efforts. Messages have also been sent, although with promises of news updates, but actually delivering computer viruses that infects the users' system and captures their private information.

Therefore, Sophos' researchers are urging the Singaporean computer users to resist clicking an e-mail attachment coming as a Microsoft Word document that supposedly offers recent news about the May 12, 2008 China earthquake. Actually, the document releases a malware piece, which quietly collects confidential data from the end-users' system. Hackers could use this stolen information to commit identity fraud and financial crimes, the researchers warned.

In a statement that AsiaMedia published on May 27, 2008, Asia-Pacific Head of Technology, Pal Ducklin, at Sophos said that while several programs could short-circuit computer viruses, the most appropriate defense was applying common sense.

Ducklin regretted that some people tend to forget this or possibly have never picked up from the past lessons. He further suggested that files from unknown or untrusted sources should never be opened.

On May 20, 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also issued a warning about a China quake scam that ironically offers a free vacation to the largest donor. Counterfeit Red Cross charity Websites have also mushroomed, imploring people to transfer money to given bank accounts.

Hence, by observing how online criminals are maliciously exploiting the recent natural calamities, Sophos is suggesting that computer users should deploy anti-malware software and spam filters on their system to remain protected.

Related article: E-Crime Reporting Format To Be Launched in July

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