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ContentWatch

Coming soon to an inbox near you-a deposed Nigerian dictator will morph into the son of a murdered Iraqi oil magnate (leader of an anti-Saddam movement, of course) who needs a reliable foreign bank account in which to dump his father's $45 million.

With the war in Iraq winding down, the U.S. Department of Justice is gearing up for the latest onslaught of Internet fraud complaints. And they won't have to wait long. The scam artists (posing as bogus charitable organizations, helpless but wealthy Iraqis, and even as George W. Bush himself) are already in full swing fishing for your money.

It is hard to believe that people are still falling for these hoaxes, but the DOJ reports that the Nigerian scam has been so lucrative that satellite operations have been set up from Nigeria to South Africa and throughout the U.S., with the average dollar loss being $3,864 per victim!

Since about 66 percent of all fraud cases originated as email, the FBI has created the Internet Fraud Complaint Center and the National White Collar Crime Center to handle these complaints. Online forms for reporting suspicious emails can be filled out at http://www.ic3.gov/. Or you can access the DOJ's website for information on cyber crime at www.cybercrime.gov/.

The following tips on how to spot a scam a mile away are reprinted from the January 2003 issue of ContentWatch. (See "It's a Hoax! It's a Joke! It's in Your Email Inbox!") Lots of entertaining reading about the most current scams can be found online at www.snopes.com or www.urbanlegends.com. Four clues to look for in identifying a hoax:

  • Sense of urgency or fear factor.
  • Easily identified by a lot of !!!!!!! following words in all caps such as URGENT!!!!! or PLEASE READ THIS NOW!!!!
  • Pass it on. Any email that asks you to forward it to everyone you know (for whatever reason) is a hoax. Is there anyone who hasn't dreaded receiving chain letters for years? Why would anyone all-of-a-sudden appreciate them now? And p-l-e-a-s-e don't forward those jokes or sappy stories. We've heard them all.
  • May include a disclaimer. If it says "THIS IS NOT A HOAX!!!!!" you can be pretty sure that it is. Or how about "THIS IS NOT ILLEGAL!!!!" Don't bet on it.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Period.

If you still have questions, do a little investigating of your own before reacting to an email, or before passing it on. You can visit any of the sites listed above for late-breaking hoax info; however, chances are you will find your brand new hoax has been circulating for years. (It's okay. No need for embarrassment. We've all been there.) And before you sound the virus alarm to your entire address book, check with http://www.mcafee.com/anti-virus/default.asp or http://www.symantec.com/avcenter for legitimate viruses. Of course it goes without saying here, keep your anti-virus protection updated and scanning automatically.

And PLEASE PASS THIS ARTICLE ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!! (Sorry.)