Application security

Nigerian email scam-master arrested

Police in Nigeria have arrested the suspected ringleader of an email scam that stole up to $2 million.

The arrest took place in Lagos, where more than 50 suspects are waiting for court appearances on similar charges. The arrest follows the apprehension earlier this year of 12 Nigerians based in the Netherlands, believed to have tricked innocent people into investing in non-existent money-making schemes.

"Millions of computer users around the world see these bogus emails in their inboxes every day, claiming to offer fortunes in the form of fake lottery wins or inheritances to the unwary," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "These emails aren't sent for fun - they really do work, and people are falling for the confidence trick all the time and ending up with their bank accounts raided. The con trick, known as a 419 scam, is big business and computer crime authorities around the world need to work in co-ordination to break the gangs behind them."

419 scams are named after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code where many of the scams originated and are unsolicited emails where the author offers a large amount of money. Once a victim has been drawn in, requests are made from the fraudster for private information which may lead to requests for money, stolen identities, and financial theft.

"Nigeria is a major hub for this kind of criminal activity, and it's good to see the authorities making arrests there even though the victims may be as far away as the United States, the U.K. or Australia," said Cluley.

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