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Rapidly Growing Lottery Scams Pose Biggest Cyber Threat

A recent study reveals that 10% of e-mail users in the United Kingdom have responded to e-mails perpetrating lottery scams with 13% clicking the links included in them. This is indeed worrying as it points to the public's state of unawareness towards risks of online crime, especially spam.

Microsoft that conducted a survey on 3,600 online participants across the UK, Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy and Germany found that half of spam mails sent are scams on lottery.

The study reveals that 62% of spam mails arriving in the UK inboxes are scams on lottery, which ask for processing fees to collect the prize money that actually does not exist.

A common online lottery scam is the Micro Lottery International, Microsoft E-mail Lottery, or Microsoft Lottery. But that does not mean that either Microsoft or Bill Gates sponsors or runs lotteries of this kind. These are only scammers' way to use highly recognized names to make their scam e-mail appear credible.

The study also found that of the UK respondents, 3% had lost funds due to lottery scams during the past year. The figure is also same for pan-European respondents.

Chief Security Advisor, Ed Gibson, of Microsoft the UK said that lottery scams over the Internet are the type of cyber crime that is growing at the fastest pace. The scams arouse increasing concern to the global law enforcement body while they offer criminals opportunities to grab Internet users' money at low risk. ComputerWeekly published Gibson's statement in news on December 19, 2007.

Since lottery scams do not require software vulnerabilities but just e-mail to convince users and trick them into remitting cash, they are hard to defend against by security programs. Therefore, the most optimum method to protect users from such kinds of crime is to educate them and increase their awareness.

Another problem with lottery scams is locating their perpetrators. Although some criminals have been arrested in Spain and Australia, a major origin of these scams is Nigeria where they are known as '419 scams' - the number is the penal code in Nigeria under which the scams are regarded as illegal.

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