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The new face of email fraud

Secret Service warns of Afghanistan email scam

The US Secret Service is warning of a new email scam doing the rounds, hot on the heels of the infamous 'Nigerian Money' scam.

The email purports to be from a US soldier in Afghanistan who has come across a large amount of illicit drug money and needs help getting the cash out of the country. He is willing to share the haul with anyone who is willing to provide him with a bank account number to help speed up the transaction.

It is a con, of course, and simply a variation on other email scams that make their way into inboxes worldwide.

"Number one, do not respond," said Washington-based Secret Service special agent Marc Connolly. "Two, please forward them to either your local Secret Service office or to Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC."

British recipients won't necessarily want to do this, but the 'do not respond' bit should be taken as read.

Last week we outlined the Top 10 online frauds, of which the Nigerian Money scam was one of the contenders.

The US Secret Service is interested in any information the public can provide, Connolly said. Details of thousands of scams are logged in a database, allowing agents to track trends, he said.

Connolly isn't surprised scammers are taking advantage of the war in Afghanistan. Such ploys, known as 419 scams or advance money scams, often wrap themselves around current events to seem more relevant, he said. The scams are called 419 after the section of Nigerian law that relates to them.

The Secret Service aims to break up the gangs perpetrating these scams. It has agents in several overseas offices, including a new office in Lagos, Nigeria, dedicated to catching the scammers, Connolly said.

Connolly reiterates the advice given ad infinitum in PC Advisor's ConsumerWatch section about how to respond to such emails: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

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