Online scammers know the best way to pull in victims is to make something that is desperately desired seem easily obtainable, such as boosting one's chance of winning the U.S. green card lottery through a small payment.
Malwarebytes researcher William Tsing detailed this latest scheme after being tipped off by fellow researcher @nullcookies, and found that the scam's website (Officialgreencardlottery.org) contains the usual tricks used to entice a victim, along with a bit of overt honesty about what is actually being offered.
The primary hook is a professionally designed website that incorporates a great deal of information on the green card lottery process, along with multiple calls to action and even a scare warning saying odds are lowered if one waits too long. The banner contains a logo that Tsing said approximates the real State Department lottery website and a line saying “The Official Website to Apply Since 1996.”
None of that is true, a fact the site itself makes clear in the small print located at the bottom of the homepage.
“USA Green Card Office is not affiliated with the U.S. Government or any government agency. You can enter the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery for Free at www.state.gov in between their open registration dates which typically start in early October 2018. We are not a law firm, we do not provide legal advice, and are not a substitute for an attorney. This site provides a review and submission service that requires a fee.”
However, this brief nod toward honesty does not last long. Tsing said he signed up for the service and found that for $129 and giving up some personal information all he received was an immediate overseas phone call with the caller trying to push an additional sale.
“We asked repeatedly about the process, when our application would be forwarded to the relevant officials, and how to move forward. The operator responded with a hard sell to ‘upgrade' our application for multiple chances to win,” Tsing said, adding this is not how the real lottery works.
One of the reasons this particular site works so well is the amount of detail provided -- much more than can be found on the official site. Tsing said a person coming across both the scam and actual sites would likely believe the fake site was, in fact, legitimate due to the amount of information on the program it provides.
“An official entity does a poor job communicating with its constituency, and that creates a vacuum that scammers are all too eager to fill. So while there are concrete steps that an end user can take to stay safe from this sort of thing, large companies and government agencies shoulder a share of the blame as well,” he said.