Kaspersky: scammers using Syrian War for online extortion

Online scammers have found a new way of extorting money out of internet users. Rather than pretending to be Nigerian princes or the daughter of an influential, recently ousted minister, they’re using the war in Syria to exploit the kindness of strangers looking to help those affected by events in the Middle East. Of course, it always helps if those kind strangers think they could make a quick buck themselves.

That’s according to Russian online security provider Kaspersky, which says that most of the scam emails claim to be from Syrian citizens seeking asylum in Europe and request assistance in investing large sums of money.

Read more: Chinese scammers exploit Apple to turn fake iPhones into real ones

Many, it says, 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 emails more convincing, many contain links to legitimate news sites and mention real events and real people, including celebrities, etc.

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.

Read more: The web’s biggest scam artists are coining it: here’s how

While English is the most popular language for the emails, 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 US$16-million earned by selling oil out of the country, and an email 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 emails does just enough to arouse the recipient’s interest but not their suspicion. However, as with all emails 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,” said Tatyana Shcherbakova, Antispam Analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Image: Samuele Ghilardi



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.