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Nigerian scammers mimic George Clooney flick

Symantec reveals 'Three Kings' spam threat

A twist on the classic Nigerian email scam that steals from the plot of the George Clooney movie Three Kings is hitting inboxes, according to Symantec.

In these emails, a US soldier based in Iraq claims that he has found a horde of cash or gold, a plot central to the 1999 film. The email explains that the total "haul”, which is often pegged at $750 million but can vary wildly from spam run to spam run, has been split among the men who found it.

The soldier's take: $20 million. Unfortunately, after he was cashiered from the army and returned to Iraq to work as - tugging at the heartstrings - a humanitarian worker, he was injured by a roadside bomb and now is on his deathbed.

"The doctors have told me point blank that I would die at any moment," the soldier writes in the spam message.

All the recipient has to do to collect the millions - or sometimes only half, with the other going to a charity - is give up an email address and phone number.

"You are now being emailed by a soldier, an American soldier who wants to share his new-found wealth," said Kelly Conley, a researcher at Symantec, on the security group's blog. "He is an American, so it's not like you're sending your money to the great unknown of a stranger or foreigner, right? This one is much easier to fall for."

In traditional Nigerian schemes - dubbed that because they typically originate from the West African country - scammers claim that they need help in moving money to the US. The messages promise recipients a share in return for an upfront fee, and therein lies the scam.

"All of a sudden the game changes," said Conley. "It's no longer written in poor English, where you deal with a stranger for the purpose of purely obtaining cash for personal gain. Instead it's [an] injured American soldier who wants to share his fortune with you and charity."


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