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More Web Users Falling For Web Trafficking Scams

December 9, 2008

Cyber criminals are getting an employment boost from the current economic crisis as it is helping them recruit more people by scamming them to be used as mules for laundering money or stolen goods.

Through e-mails, Web crooks are tricking people into believing they can work from home for great part-time pay.

The victims are asked to open new bank accounts in their names, agree to accept anonymous payments into those accounts, and forward those payments by way of money transfer, usually to locations in Eastern Europe.

This scam puts the mules at the highest amount of risk, as they often unknowingly become the middlemen in a trafficking scheme.

Security researchers say more people are willing to take a risk on the come-ons as unemployment rises and the volume of the mule e-mails increases.

“When people are scared of a job going away, or they’re worried about having money to pay bills, they might look at something like this in a different light than when things are rosy and great,” said David Marcus, McAfee Inc.’s director of security research and communications.

What’s more, the recruiting tools are becoming more convincing. The job titles offered in the spam generally include variants of “international sales representatives” or “shipping managers.”

McAfee’s annual “Virtual Criminology Report,” which will be released soon by the Internet security company, says 873 money-mule recruitment Web pages were detected in Britain in the first half of 2008, a 33 percent increase over the first half of 2007. That data was compiled by APACS, the United Kingdom’s payment-industry trade group.

Panda Security recently released research showing that job-related messages hit a new record of 0.31 percent of all spam in October, nearly triple the proportion from August. Additionally, the success rate in recruiting money mules rose to 1.8 percent in October, from 0.5 percent in August.

IBM Corp. says the number of daily attacks it spotted against Web servers and computer networks increased 30 percent over the past four months, to more than 2.5 billion attempted incursions worldwide.

“Those are very scary numbers,” said Gunter Ollmann, chief security researcher for IBM’s X-Force security services team.

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