Hordes of scammers are exploiting the Asian tsunami to prise money from email recipients, it has emerged. 419 scams and phishing attacks are being crafted to extort money from those wishing to help victims of last week’s disaster.

"We are seeing primarily 419 scams related to the tsunami," said Dave Jevans, chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group. "We found one today that does use some brand spoofing."

To achieve authenticity scammers are using the guises of aid foundations such as The Spanish Red Cross, Oxfam and UNICEF. The emails usually document aid efforts in the affected region, appealing for money to help. These 419 scams manipulate loopholes in Nigerian law, and often take a form similar to the following which was taken from an email sent yesterday (Tuesday).

The emails are very badly written and urge recipients of the email to send money via money transfer companies to bank accounts based in Cyprus and Malta.

The news arrived after Australian authorities slapped the wrists of a teenager (but not charged him) after he set up a site that illegally used trademarks of the Red Cross.

A statement on an Australian website claiming to be written by the youth read, "I truly thought I was acting in best interests. With many other people taking these same kind of payments through PayPal, I thought I could do the same to help the victims of the tsunami. But this good idea that I had has now snowballed into a lot of controversy which I am very sorry for."

www.antiphishingworkinggroup.org