Kaspersky Lab: Ebola hook in “Nigerian” spam

In September spammers produced topical new versions of the old “Nigerian Letter” scam, this time based on the Ebola virus. According to company’s experts several mass mailings exploited this theme. A large part of the major theme mailings promoted products and services using popular social networking sites: the spammers promised an instant influx of new customers and income growth.

“Spammers routinely try to exploit breaking news and topical events. The scammers seldom miss an opportunity to use high-profile events to attract the users’ attention and convince them that these fraudulent emails are for real. So after the first news reports about Ebola emerged in July, it was no surprise to start seeing related mass mailings as early as September, exploiting the headlines to deceive recipients and extort money from them,” commented Tatyana Shcherbakova, Senior spam analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

According to Kaspersky Lab’s analysis the total percentage of spam in September's email traffic averaged 66.5%, which is 0.7 percentage points down from August. Financial phishing accounted for 36.97% of all detections made by Kaspersky Lab's anti-phishing component, a 1.7 pp growth compared with the previous month.

The main distributors of spam were the USA (12%), Vietnam (9.3%) and Russia (5.8%), while Germany became the country with the most antivirus detections (9.11%) followed by the UK (8.45%) and the USA (8.26%).

An example of a “Nigerian Letter” scam based on the Ebola virus topic that Kaspersky Lab experts came across is an email from a rich Liberian lady dying of Ebola. It contained a long story about her children who died from the virus and about a local medical center that refused to help her. She was willing to donate more than $1.5 million to a recipient who would transfer this money to appropriate charities.

The authors of another fraudulent mailing introduced themselves as employees of the World Health Organization and tried an unusual tack to attract attention – the reader was invited to a conference where Ebola would be discussed along with other medical issues. The recipient was also offered a job – paying 350,000 Euros a year – and a complementary car to take up a position as the WHO’s UK representative.

Among the more unusual mailings of the month, Kaspersky Lab saw spam messages targeting collectors. English-language users were offered a free booklet on British medals from the First World War. The emails with the generous offer supposedly came from the SSAFA, a charity created to assist British war veterans and their families.

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