A scammer who admitted being a thief is posing as a fund manager for a major financial institution to dupe unsuspecting email recipients out of money.
The badly written emails, which pretend to come from someone calling himself William Smith at Fidelity Investments, claim that the sender has "secretly extracted excess maximum return capital" from one of Fidelity's funds. They go on to claim that the fund manager has already made $22.4 million and is looking for someone else to assist in the crime.
Anti-virus researchers believe that the emails are a variant of the "Letter from Nigeria" scams, also known as 419 Advanced Fee Fraud.
"Email scammers are attempting to fleece the innocent out of money, and it is the naive who are most at risk of ending up penniless," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "This scam contains spelling mistakes and typos, but even if the scammer had done a better job at presenting himself professionally, people need to learn that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If an unsolicited email makes extravagant promises, then computer users should be extremely wary," he said.
Fidelity Investments, which is based in Boston, Mass., is said to be working with the authorities to investigate the source of the emails.
"The email, written in broken English and with bizarre claims, is a particularly obvious example of one kind of scam that some online would-be criminals employ," Fidelity spokesman Adam Banker told Reuters.
Cluley said that it was "important to realize that Fidelity Investments has done nothing wrong. It is simply the unfortunate victim of its own success."
"The scammers have chosen to pose as one of Fidelity's employees because is a well known and highly-regarded name, and they hope it will encourage victims to pursue the dodgy business opportunity," he said.