The ongoing war in Syria has seen the number of fraudulent e-mails targeting the international community rise in recent months, according to a Kaspersky Lab report about spam and phishing trends.
Widespread media coverage has increased international interest in the plight of Syrian citizens, and this has led Nigerian scammers to jump on the bandwagon and exploit the kindness of strangers looking to help those affected by events in the Middle East.
Most e-mails claim to be from Syrian citizens seeking asylum in Europe and request assistance in investing large sums of money. Many purport to be from women whose husbands have supposedly been killed or died and, as a result, they have large sums of money that they want to transfer to another country, as well as wanting to leave Syria. To make the e-mails more convincing, many contain links to legitimate news sites and mention real events and real people, including celebrities.
As well as promising financial rewards in return for help, the scammers also play on feelings of pity and compassion with highly emotional personal stories. These include complaints of harassment by the president to support ISIS, or tales of women whose entire families have been killed during a bombardment.
While English is the most popular language for the emails, the team at Kaspersky Lab has also identified emails in German, French and Arabic. The author of one German-language email, for example, claims they need to move $16-million earned by selling oil out of the country, and an e-mail in French is written on behalf of a Syrian refugee whose relatives were killed in the war in Syria and who is now living in Germany in poor conditions.
“The ongoing plight of Syrian citizens and refugees has given scammers a perfect opportunity to tug on the heart strings of an international community trying to support those affected. The attention to detail and tone of the e-mails does just enough to arouse the recipient’s interest but not their suspicion. However, as with all e-mails from unknown senders, we advise people to exercise caution and, if in doubt, leave the email unopened and hit delete. Despite the emotive content of these emails, the only people profiting from your sympathy will be the scammers themselves,” says Tatyana Shcherbakova, antispam analyst at Kaspersky Lab.