E-Mail Fraud Rises, But Does It Matter?

As Nigerian scam artists get savvier, some people still fall victim.

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Symantec's MessageLabs has detected a spike in E-mail fraud and financial scams over the last couple weeks. The company says that messages with subjects such as, "Congratulations New Year Winner!" or "You have won the UK National Lottery" make up about 10 percent of the E-mail sent so far this year. (That's over 43,000 E-mails of the more than 427,000 the company has scanned.) That's three times more E-mail scams than last year.

Here's my question: Is anyone still vulnerable to these types of fraudsters? To me, they resemble junk mail more than any sort of sneaky scam. I receive dozens of such messages a week and delete them within a nanosecond of viewing.

But MessageLabs says there is reason to be concerned, partly because Nigerian scams, which generally ask for help in transferring or claiming money, have become savvier, with E-mail messages that are easier to read and shorter. Paul Wood, senior analyst at MessageLabs, says the recession could also contribute to rising online fraud. "As the economic climate continues to be frosty and the inability to secure credit through official channels remains spammers are tempted by the possibility that consumers facing uncertain futures may be more tempted by some of these hard-to-resist offers," he says.

So yes, apparently people are still falling victim to such scams. I suspect that they tend to be the elderly, computer illiterate, or people who are otherwise less familiar with the online world than most. Please, if you know people who fall into this category, tell them to delete these kinds of E-mails immediately.