Microsoft warns of financial crisis email scams

Wed Oct 29, 2008 8:09am EDT
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Internet fraudsters will try to exploit the global financial crisis by sending fraudulent emails purporting to offer cash-strapped consumers new mortgages, loans or money from failed banks, a Microsoft executive said on Wednesday.

Tim Cranton, an Internet safety expert at Microsoft, said there are early signs that criminals have already begun trying to cash in on the economic turmoil.

"It's especially troubling right now with the financial crisis," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "There are more and more people who are maybe in a more desperate or vulnerable situation.

"We have seen an increase in some mortgage refinance type of scams. We are anticipating that they'll become more sophisticated.

"We have seen that with Hurricane Katrina, the (2004 Asian) tsunami and other natural disasters where the scammers immediately jump."

Fraudsters may send spam emails to consumers that ask them to pay a fee related to the collapse of a bank or financial institution, he added.

"They will allege it is associated with the refinancing -- so because of this bailout you'll get a much better deal on your mortgage and all you have to do is pay this fee."

Online criminals have long used promises of easy money to try to defraud unsuspecting victims.   Continued...

<p>A generic picture of a woman typing. REUTERS/Catherine Benson</p>