Monday, December 28, 2009

Another Lottery Scam on This Christmas Using The Name of "UK National Welfare Christmas Lottery"

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email claims that the recipient has won the UK National Welfare Christmas Lottery and should contact a specified agent in order to claim a large cash prize.

In fact, the message is a scam. It is not from a real lottery organization and the supposed prize money does not exist. Those who contact the bogus "agent" specified in the message will be asked to sent upfront fees supposedly to allow their "prize money" to be released. They will also be asked to send personal information that may be used to steal their identity. All money and information sent by victims will be collected and used by Internet criminals. If you receive an email like this one, DO NOT reply as requested. DO NOT send any money or information.

Contents of the mail are:


Subject: Uk National Welfare Christmas Lottery..

Uk National Welfare Christmas Lottery..
[Removed] West London SW2 8JG, United Kingdom.

Dear Beneficiary,

This is to notify you that you have been chosen By the Board of trustees of Uk National Welfare Christmas Lottery based in Britain as one of the final recipients of a Cash Grant/Prize of 1,000,000.00 GBP, for your own personal, education and business development. This promotion is to show our customers all over the world, our appreciation.
Please endeavor to quote your Qualification numbers: (File #: IMSL/FAW3515/UK) in all discussions.

Please contact our licensed and accredited agent assigned to you for the claim of your prize:
Contact agent: Mr.Floyd Johnson
Tell: [Removed]

Provide the following data's: 1.Name, 2. Complete address, Mobile Num and your File Number to the email above.
On behalf of the Board kindly accept our warmest congratulations.
Yours faithfully,
Mrs. Steve Gentry
Promotion Officer.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This email claims that the recipient has been chosen as the winner of a large cash prize in the UK National Welfare Christmas Lottery. According to the message, the "lucky" recipient has been awarded the sum of 1,000,000.00 GBP to use for his or her "own personal, education and business development". Supposedly, the UK National Lottery Board of trustees organized the promotion as a means of showing appreciation to its customers. The message instructs the recipient to contact the "licensed and accredited agent" in order to claim the prize.

However, the email is not from the UK National Lottery or any other legitimate lottery entity. In fact, the message is the initial gambit in a commonly used fraud technique designed to trick Internet users into sending money and sensitive personal information to criminals.

Those who fall for the ruse and contact the bogus "agent" will soon be asked to send upfront fees, ostensibly to allow the release of the prize money to the "winner". The scammers will claim that the prize cannot be released until all these upfront fees are paid in full. They will insist that the fees cannot be deducted from the prize itself because of legal requirements. Lottery scammers typically provide victims with a variety of entirely fictitious reasons why such fees must be paid in advance. They may claim that the payments are required to cover insurance costs, taxes, banking transaction fees, legal fees or other costs. If a victim complies with the scammer's first fee request and sends money, further requests are likely to follow. Of course, the supposed prize does not exist and any money sent will be pocketed by the criminals running the scam. Moreover, during the course of the scam, the victim may inadvertently supply enough private information to allow the scammers to steal his or her identity. Lottery scammers typically trick victims into supplying their personal and financial details by claiming that such information is required before the prize money can be released.

In order to make their lies sound more legitimate, advance fee scammers often misuse the names - and sometimes the logos and trademarks - of genuine organizations. In this case, they attempt to fool victims into believing that their scam messages originate with the UK based National Lottery. In reality, these scam emails have nothing whatsoever to do with the National Lottery. The National Lottery is a perfectly legitimate organization that has operated lotteries in the UK for a number of years. The National Lottery has been regularly targeted by lottery scammers. In response to these attacks, it has published information warning customers about such fraudulent activities.

Scam emails can often be identified by poor or unusual spelling and grammar. And even small details that appear anomalous or incongruous in their given context can also be indications that things are not what they seem. For example, the contact email address supplied in this scam email is Chinese (.cn). It is difficult to imagine why a representative of a UK based lottery would use a Chinese email address.

Users should be very cautious of any email or SMS message that claims that they have won a prize in a lottery or promotion that they have never actually entered. While some promotions may allow participants to enter without purchasing a ticket, some form of specific registration or entry will always be required. Any message that claims that your name or email address has been randomly selected even though you have never bought a ticket or submitted an entry in the supposed promotion should be treated with suspicion. If you receive such a message, do not reply to the sender. Do not send any money or supply any personal information. Do not follow any links or open any attachments in such scam messages as they may attempt to install malware on your computer.

Reality of A Hoax Message/Mail Claiming "Message Forwarding Will Help Baby Girl Heart Transplant"

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary

Message states that a seriously ill baby girl will receive a donation from the phone company to help pay for a heart transplant every time the message is forwarded.

This message/mail is a hoax. It is yet another variation in a long line of hoaxes that falsely claim money will be donated to help a sick child whenever the message is forwarded to others. All such claims are fallacious. Forwarding this message will NOT help any sick child and is just a waste of time.

The examples of the message are presented here:


Exp. # 1

A 6yr old precious baby girl needs a heart transplant, phone companies agree to donate 5 cents everytime this text is fwd (No lie) remember karma

Exp # 2

Fwd: A baby girl needs a heart transplant & the phone company is donating $2 every time this is fwd. (no lie) karma Will repay you


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This message circulates mainly in the form of a mobile phone text message, but has also been posted on Twitter and other social websites and has apparently produced an email version as well. The text claims that whenever the message is forwarded to others, the phone company will donate money to help pay medical costs for a baby girl in need of a heart transplant. Some versions claim that 5 cents will be donated in exchange for every forward, while others inflate the amount supposedly donated to two dollars. Some versions claim the child in need of the transplant is 6 years old while others just identify her as a "baby girl".

However, the claims in these messages are false. No phone company, or any other organization for that matter, will be donating money just for forwarding a message. No baby will be supported by forwarding this message. In fact, this text message is just one more version in a long line of similar hoaxes that falsely claim that recipients can help raise donations for a sick child by the simple act of forwarding a message.

The most of the previous versions were circulated primarily via email rather than mobile text message. But, regardless of the technique use to spread such hoaxes, all make the same meaningless claim that a particular company or organization will donate money based on how many times the message is sent to others. Several such hoaxes target charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation or the Red Cross. Others target companies such as AOL.

This version is even vaguer than earlier versions. It does not even name a particular company as the entity supposedly doing the donating. It just identifies the donator as the "phone company", which of course would constantly change depending on which service provider the recipient was using. Nor does it name the child who is supposedly the recipient of the funds or even identify her location.

Any message that claims that money will be donated in exchange for forwarding an email or text message is virtually certain to be a hoax. It is simply absurd to suggest that any legitimate company or charity would sponsor or endorse such a ridiculous fund-raising scheme. And, even if they did, there would be no accurate, ethical or reliable method of tracking how many times the message was forwarded and therefore how much money should be ultimately donated.

If you receive such a message, via email, text message, or any other format, please do not forward it to others. Sending on such messages will not help any sick child in the slightest.

Top 10 Cyber Security Predictions for 2010 - - Concluded By Security Survey Done By PriceWaterhouse Coopers

According to PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ annual security survey, almost two-thirds of organisations expect to maintain or increase their spending on security in 2010, despite the prospects of budget cuts elsewhere.

But companies might well be running to stand still: again according to PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 40 per cent of chief information officers (CIOs) believe the threats to their companies’ information increased in 2009.

Few security experts expect to 2010 to bring much respite, with cyber criminals developing new attacks and techniques, and businesses depending more than ever on the internet for communication and trade.

Here, IT PRO brings together some of the industry’s security predictions for the coming year.

Cloud Computing

As companies make more use of cloud computing to reduce their costs and improve flexibility, so the cloud is more likely to suffer from cyber crime. As more corporate data moves to the cloud, the cloud providers will become an attractive target, according to security firm M86.

And increasing reliance on third parties to host data and applications will make it more difficult for IT managers to control their information security perimeters.

Dark Traffic – And Bigger Botnets

More than 90 per cent of email traffic – 90.4 per cent, to be precise, according to Symantec – is now spam. The basic laws of mathematics mean that spam cannot grow much more, in percentage terms, but anti-malware firms expect the absolute volume of “dark traffic” to continue to grow.

One reason is that botnets are becoming ever more sophisticated and harder to detect. Another is that, for some reason, people buy stuff from spam emails. Amazingly 12 per cent of consumers have responded to spam, according to the US-based Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG).

And, as Symantec cautions, more than two per cent of spam messages actually contain malware attachments.

Social Networks

Consumers’ interest in social networks is set to grow further in 2010, and so will cyber attacks directed either through social networks, or at them.

In addition to account takeover, and individuals using social network sites to introduce spam links or malware, several security firms expect 2010 to see attacks directed at social networks and their users through third-party applications, and the networks’ APIs.

Industrialisation of Hacking

According to IT security firm Imperva, cybercrime is increasingly organised along industrial lines. The company says that hacking groups now operate clearly defined supply chains. These groups are often organised in ways that are very similar to drugs cartels, and are making more and more use of automated tools to speed up their hacking attacks.

Data Breaches

Data breaches will continue to be a headache for businesses, government departments and regulators. The Identity Theft Resource Centre reported 403 data breaches in the first nine months of 2009, exposing 220 million records.

Most data breaches in 2009 were unintentional or accidental. But the expectation is that the percentage of malicious breaches will grow steadily in 2010, both through hacking and cyber crime, and malicious data theft by ex-employees.


Applications that demand money with menaces were around in 2009, and are set to be more common still in 2010. Rogue anti-malware software takes control of users’ computers and effectively asks for a ransom to regain control of the machine.

Other scareware companies con users into downloading “anti-virus” software that detects spurious infections, and asks the user for cash to remove it. In another twist to the scareware scam, Symantec reports that rogue companies are selling rebranded copies of free antivirus software under their own names.

Localized Attacks

Large-scale malware attacks were the thing of the noughties. From 2010 onwards, the IT security industry expects to see a shift to smaller, more localised attacks.

These might be limited to a country, a city, an individual company, or even a high-profile individual. We have already seen hackers compromise the accounts of prominent social network users. Malware writers are turning to “spear phishing” attacks to target the rich, or the influential.

At the other end of the spectrum, security experts predict more attacks focused around large-scale international events, with the Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup expected to bring large spikes in malware traffic.

Attacks on Virtualized Environments

Virtualisation was one of the key technology topics of 2009. In 2010, hackers will turn their attention to virtualised IT environments, according to the IEEE. Attacks on virtual environments have also been highlighted by Trend Micro as a risk for 2010, as it allows hackers to develop new attack vectors.

One risk is the use of virtualisation to support shared infrastructures; the other is gaps in security created by the interface between virtual machines, hypervisors, and the physical hardware.

Windows 7

There is no denying that Microsoft has made great strides in security in the last few years. However, as Windows 7 grows in market share, hackers will turn its attention to that operating system, rather than older versions such as Windows XP. And, as Trend Micro cautions, the default configuration of Windows 7 is less secure than the default set up for Vista.

Mobile Malware

Serious malware threats to mobile phones, and especially smart phones, are certainly possible. This year has seen attacks on iPhone users in Australia, and attacks on BlackBerry devices carried through PDF files.

As yet, there has not been a large-scale attack on a single mobile platform or operator, perhaps because of the diverse range of the mobile handsets on the market, and perhaps because as yet, mobiles carry only small amounts of critical data.

But the risk of a large-scale attack against a popular mobile platform will grow as the devices become more common. F-Secure cautions that there will be more attacks on the iPhone as well as proof of concept attacks against Android and Maemo, Nokia’s Linux-based platform. And the anti-virus vendor continues to warn against a zero-day attack against mobiles.

AT&T Ceases Apple iPhone Sales in New York Area Through Its Website Due to Possible Credit Card Fraud

AT&T is one of the largest providers of local, long distance telephone services in the United States, and sells digital subscriber line Internet access and digital television has clogged selling the Apple iPhone in the New York metropolitan area through its Web site. The reason behind ceasing the sale of the iPhone is perhaps due to data congestion, credit card fraud, or routine sales strategy changes.

The sales of the phone were apparently suspended Sunday and for approaching customers who attempt to buy an iPhone through the Web site using a New York area ZIP code gets a message saying, "We're sorry, there are no Packages & Deals available at this time. Please check back later." However, changing ZIP codes to other U.S. metro areas yields a bevy of iPhone choices.

"We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels," said Fletcher Cook, an AT&T spokesman said to CNET suggested that the move to not offer any iPhones online to buyers in the Big Apple was a routine strategic decision.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"E-mail Account Take-overs" - - Few Tips to Avoid Your E-mail Account to Be Hacked

Beware! Everyone about "e-mail account take-overs" or stolen e-mail accounts.

An "e-mail account take-over" is a term used when a hacker gains access to a user's email account and assumes ownership. Once this takes place, the original owner can no longer gain access to their account, and information from personal files can be made available to the hacker.

Typically, e-mail accounts are taken over for a fraudulent purpose.

There are several different types of frauds that can be committed once an e-mail account has been taken over. For example, the fraudster can send out an e-mail to all of the "Contacts" on an individual's account, pleading for money, citing a personal emergency.

Persons who have had their e-mail accounts taken over are also vulnerable to identity theft. An identity theft victim can be exposed to a number of frauds, all done in their name. These types of frauds include, but are not limited to, mortgage fraud, credit card fraud and other banking frauds.

If you can no longer access your e-mail account, you should report it immediately to your e-mail provider. If you are experiencing difficulties contacting your e-mail provider, assistance can be found by searching under your e-mail provider and the word "abuse" on your preferred internet search engine.

Here are some tips to prevent e-mail take-over:

-Change your password often and do not use obvious passwords.

-If you buy or sell on the internet, set up a separate e-mail address for that purpose and do not include "Contacts" in this e-mail account.

-Don't open e-mails or go to any on-line links sent to you by someone you don't know. They may be hackers attempting to take over your e-mail account.

Holiday Season - - Beware Online Auction Fraud & Identity Theft

Scammers often set up pages on auction sites during the holiday season. Consumers should be aware of deals that are obviously too good to be true. Most too good to be true online deals bite unsophisticated shoppers or "newbies" to the online auction world. The victim either gets goods that are inferior, counterfeit or they never get anything and still get charged.

My spouse needed some skin care products and went online to eBay to make a purchase. She's a newbie at this and doesn't have a lot of experience. She called me over to help complete the transaction and was all happy she found her products so cheap. She told me the other companies were charging almost double so she doubled her order because she was saving so much. I looked at the seller "feedback" that others are supposed to give and it seems my spouse was the first ever buyer.

I told her I didn't feel comfortable with the purchase that she should wait a day to see what happens. She begrudgingly agreed with me. The next day she logged on to complete her purchase and she saw a message stating: "The eBayer has been suspended from eBay because our records indicate the account was involved in activities that violate our terms" or something like that.

If it seems like online fraud, it is.

Scams can happen inside or outside the auction's website.eBay recommends being aware of "spoofed" emails.

Stay safe online by protecting yourself from spoof (fake) emails and Web sites. Spoof emails and Web sites can be a major problems for unsuspecting Internet users. Claiming to be sent by a well-known company, spoof emails direct users to Web sites asking for personal information such as a credit card number, Social Security number, or account password. Most "legit" websites will never ask you for such personal information when making a simple purchase. Because it's so difficult to tell when an email or Web site is a spoof, eBay recommends that you:

1. Download and use eBay Toolbar with Account Guard, a feature that indicates whether you are on the real eBay or Paypal Web sites, or are on a potential spoof site.

2. Learn about spoof protection by taking eBay's spoof tutorial.

3. Never enter sensitive personal information (such as your password or credit card, bank account, and Social Security numbers) in an email.

Avoid online scams and identity theft by looking for "Feedback" internally on eBays website.

1. Buy with confidence by reviewing a seller's eBay feedback.

2. Before you bid or buy on eBay, it's important to know your seller. Always look at your seller's feedback ratings, score and comments first to get an idea of their reputation within the eBay marketplace.

3. Each comment and rating – whether positive, neutral or negative – is an opportunity to understand the history and experience of a seller, a chance to form your own opinions, and a visual cue to help you make a smart buying decision.

Two men were recently arrested when they pocketed the buyer's payment, then used the buyer's credit card number and then made fraudulent charges. You can't be too careful here

In most cases I recommend using PayPal for online auctions to help prevent online identity theft. If you use your credit card, make sure to check your statements frequently and refute unauthorized charges immediately.

Online buying can help make life easier. Make sure you follow these tips when making online purchases to help protect your identity.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lottery Scam Targeting Unlucky Victims - - Few Advices From Federal Trade Commission Website About Foreign Lottery Notices

SIERRA VISTA — A local resident recently received a letter informing him of his good fortune to win more than $3 million in the Australian lottery. The only problem is that he does not play the lottery.

Keith Adrian chose not to try to collect his mysterious winnings by contacting the London-based phone number listed in the letter but is concerned someone else might act on it, he said.

“I have a friend who every time he gets one of these, he acts on it,” he said.

Once his friend did much more than call London, he went there in person in pursuit of promised money that never really existed, Adrian said.

Instead, his friend ended up getting lost and had to ask the London police for help.

This was the first time Steve Wilson, communications director for the Arizona attorney general’s office, had heard of this specific scam, but bogus foreign lottery scams have been around for years , he said. People need to be particularly mindful around the holidays because more people come out with these scams during this time of year.

People tend to be in the holiday spirit … a little more accepting of some claims made by fraud artists who want to capitalize on people’s good feeling this time of year,” Wilson said. The struggling economy could also be a factor in making some people unusually susceptible to these scams.

Calling the number on the letter would be a terrific waste of time, would incur long-distance charges and would also put the victim at risk of providing personal information that could benefit the people behind the fraud, Wilson said. Even by just calling the number, the person gives up their phone number to scammers.

Basically anything that is too good to be true, probably is, especially if they ask you to send them money to get money,” said Tracy Grady, public information officer for the Sierra Vista Police Department. This was the first time she had heard of the Australian lottery scam, and she recommends that people do a simple Internet search if they think something is a scam.

It’s likely that many others have already reported it, she said.

The state attorney general’s office encourages people who are targeted by a scam to fill out a complaint form on the office’s Web site,

Once we receive these complaints, then we can take appropriate action to look into them,” he said.

Foreign Lotteries

According to the Federal Trade Commission Web site, the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail is against federal law.

The commission provides the following advice to consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery notice:

• If you play a foreign lottery, through the mail or over the telephone, you’re violating federal law.

• There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none.

• If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.

• Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.

Ottawa Police Warns of Ongoing Fraud Scam That is Targetting Seniors of The Area

The Ottawa Police Service organized fraud section are advising the public of an ongoing scam that now appears to target seniors in the Ottawa area.

Although a relatively small number of these incidents have been reported to the Ottawa Police, it is believed that more individuals may have been victimized and may not have reported the incident.

The scam involves someone contacting an elderly person and pretending to be a grandchild in trouble with the police. The person will tell the victim that he has been arrested by a police service outside of Ottawa and requires bail money.

The victim is given the number to call for verification, either pretending to be a lawyer's number for the grandson or the sergeant in charge of the police station (or variations).

The caller usually implores the victim not to contact the parents so that they don't get into any more trouble.

The victim is then asked to use a money wire service to send several thousands of dollars for bail.

Canadian Police agencies do not contact individuals for bail money and certainly do not use money wire services.

To guard against this type of scam, people should exercise due diligence by:

Getting the name of the apparent lawyer and contact them by getting their listed numbers from phone books, Bell 4-1-1 service or other such Internet services. Not the number provided by the caller.

If a particular police agency is named, contact that agency directly using the numbers listed in the phone book or web page.

Never send money through money wire services to persons you do not know personally.

Anyone with information on this fraud, or any other fraud, is asked to contact the Ottawa police at 613-236-1222, ext. 7300, or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Net-banking Vulnerability to Cybercrime - - In India Three Different Cases of Net-banking Fraud Recorded in Ahmedabad

Net banking is easy and it saves you the time and energy of physically being present at a bank. But beware of its pitfalls, as many in the city have learned after losing their hard-earned money. Phishers are on the prowl for your password and other bank details.

And given the rise in number of such crimes it seems they are quite successful. Three cases of net banking fraud were reported in the city where money from one account was transferred to another without the consent or knowledge of the account holder. The detection of crime branch is investigating two such cases, while one case is being investigated by the Ellisbridge police station.

The investigators believe that often it is ignorance that makes people victims of such crimes. "A fraudster cannot access the account details of an account holder until he gives information to the former. Often an account holder unwittingly reveals the information in reply to a mail sent by the fraudsters," said police inspector, cyber crime cell, KK Patel.

Sources in the police department told DNA that phishing is not new to the city, but a recent trend is the rise in number of emails being sent to account holders asking for account details. "Some people think the mails are from their bank and give away the details. Soon their money is transferred to some other account," a source said.

In a recent case an account holder of Punjab National Bank had Rs50,000 from his account transferred to two different bank accounts in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh without his knowledge. Police say this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Police inspector, Ellisbridge police station, KK Pandya told DNA that primary investigations have revealed that Rameshchandra Patel, the complainant in the case had revealed his bank details to a phishing email which he had received.

"Patel did not bother to cross check with his bank and replied to the mail with his bank details. These details were used by the thieves to take money from his account," Pandya said. However in Patel's case the PNB officials acted swiftly and stopped the transaction from the two bank accounts to which Patel's money was transferred.

"Black in the White House" - - A Recent Email Hoax: New Version of an Old Hoax Named "Virtual Card for You" Circulated in 2000

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Message warns that an email attachment named "Black in the White House" contains a damaging computer virus that can destroy the hard drive of the infected computer.

This is totally a false mail with no reality in its contents. In fact, this is a renewed version of an old hoax; spread on the internet almost nine years back in 2000.

Let's have a look to the contents of the mail being circulated presently:


Subject: Do not open any message


PLEASE CIRCULATE to your friends, family and contacts.

In the coming days, Do not open any message With an attachment called: Black in the White House, Regardless of who sent you ... It is a virus that opens an Olympic torch that burns the whole hard disk C of your computer. This virus comes from a known person who you had in your list Directions. . That's why you should send this message to all your Contacts.

It is better to receive this email 25 times to receive the virus and Open .. If you receive a message called: black in the white house, even Sent by a friend, do not open and shut down your machine immediately. It is the worst virus announced by CNN. A new virus has been discovered Recently it has been classified by Microsoft as the virus most destructive ever. This virus was discovered yesterday afternoon By McAfee. And there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus Simply destroys the Zero Sector of the hard disk, where information Vital function is stored.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This message warns recipients to watch out for emails with an attachment called "Black in the White House". The message warns that opening the attachment will launch a destructive computer virus that will "burn" the hard drive of the recipient's computer thereby damaging it beyond repair. Supposedly, the virus destroys the "Zero Sector" on the infected computer's hard drive. According to the warning, the virus has been classified as the "most destructive ever" by Microsoft and CNN.

However, the information in the message is untrue. There is no a virus like the one described in the warning. In fact, the warning is just a newer incarnation of an older virus hoax that has circulated for several years. As the following example illustrates, the wording in the message is very similar to the Invitation virus hoax that began circulating back in 2006:

You should be alert during the next days: Do not open any message with an attached filed called "Invitation" regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.

If you receive a mail called "invitation", though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately.

This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept. SEND THIS E-MAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW, COPY THIS E-MAIL AND SEND IT TO YOUR FRIENDS AND REMEMBER: IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM, YOU WILL BENEFIT ALL OF US

And the "Invitation" hoax is in turn a revamped version of the even older Virtual Card for You hoax that began circulating as early as the year 2000:


PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR CONTACT LIST!! A new virus has just been discovered that has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive ever. This virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee . This virus simply destroys Sector Zero from the hard disk, where vital information for its functioning are stored.

This virus acts in the following manner:
It sends itself automatically to all contacts on your list with the title: "A Card for You".

As soon as the supposed virtual card is opened the computer freezes so that the user has to reboot. When the ctrl+alt+ del keys or the reset button are pressed, the virus destroys Sector Zero, thus permanently destroying the hard disk. Yesterday in just a few hours this virus caused panic in New York , according to news broadcast by CNN.

This alert was received by an employee of Microsoft itself. So don't open any mails with subject: "A Virtual Card for You. " As soon as you get the mail, delete it !! Please pass this mail to all of your friends.

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I'm sure most people, like myself, would rather receive this notice 25 times than not at All.

There have been a number of other variants based on the original "Virtual Card for You" hoax, including several that circulate in languages other than English. All versions of this hoax are equally untrue and none should not be taken seriously. Forwarding such false warnings serves only to spread misinformation. McAfee, the antivirus company mentioned in the messages, has published a write-up denouncing the warnings as hoaxes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beware of "Nigerian Scam" - - Few Tips to Avoid a Scam

The Renton Police Department is warning people about a scam commonly known as the “Nigerian scam.”

There are several financial scams but most of the current schemes are re-packaged versions of the same old scams. Some of the common ones involve a lottery scenario or a sure-fire investment. However, new twists might be fronted offering employment, asking for money for medical bills, or other tempting deals, according to police officials.

Recently in Renton, scam artists offered an individual a large sum of money if they could prove their trustworthiness by first giving the suspects $50,000 of their own funds. The scam failed, because Renton police were called to the scene. The victim’s money was recovered, and police took two female suspects into custody. Two other suspects remain at large.

“Every year millions of dollars are lost by people throughout the United States in scams just like this,” said Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich. “This is an important reminder for everyone — if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.”

Here are a few recent scams to avoid, according to the Renton Police Department.

Lottery scam

A letter is sent indicating that the victim is a grand prize winner of a large sum of money. There is a request for personal banking information or a request for payment by the victim for “taxes” or “surcharges.”

Investment scam

Money is requested upfront for what is guaranteed as a safe and secure investment with a high rate of return. Interest payments stop after first few initial payments.

Mystery shopper/employment offer scam

An e-mail or a letter is sent offering employment as a mystery shopper. Personal information is requested and the person is asked to wire-transfer a sum of money to an account. A check for the amount is provided. The check for the victim to deposit is counterfeit and by the time the check bounces the money has been wired.

Nigerian scam

The victim is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain. Personal banking information is requested and instructions for wire transfers are provided.

Injury scam – usually targeting seniors

The victim gets a phone call regarding a family member allegedly involved in an accident or urgently in need of money. Money for medical bills is requested to be wired through Western Union to a specific location. The victim is asked to keep the information on the accident confidential. None of this is true and the elderly are scammed.

How to avoid a scam

Here are some ways that you can avoid being scammed, according to the Renton police.

Make a few personal rules for yourself, including:

  • Check personal credit every six months to monitor activity.
  • Use passwords on accounts rather than mother’s maiden name or social security numbers.
  • Mail bills and checks from a post office rather than your unlocked home mailbox.
  • Don’t reveal banking or personal information online or on the phone.
  • Never rely on phoned reports about family. Call family members directly for verification.
  • Don’t open bank accounts during employment process.

Emergency Scam Grown by 157% in Canada - - Cybercriminals Targeted Victims Through Emails

The OPP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), formerly Phonebusters, are warning the public of the "emergency scam" that is seeing a major increase across Canada.

CAFC advises that the emergency scam has grown by 157% over the reports received in 2008 and suspects have, in most instances, targeted victims through email.

This scam traditionally uses telemarketing to solicit victims. The scam is operated by fraudsters claiming to be a family member or a close friend of a family member and advising the potential victim about an urgent situation that requires immediate funds. Common themes have been that the family member was arrested or got into an accident while traveling abroad. Thus, fees are required for hospital expenses or bail. The recent variant to this scheme is the solicitation being sent to contact lists from hijacked email accounts. This increases the threat of this scam, as a trust level already exists between the sender and recipient; the fraudsters no longer have to pretend to be a family member or close friend.

If anyone is contacted in such a way, do not send money. Contact the friend or family member who is emailing you to confirm this information (through a phone call or common friend).

$1.2 Million Payments Scam Using the Name of SPINFINDER GMBH

After quite a few days, I'm here to share a new cyber attack in the form of "Winning Notice" from somewhere. With the Christmas eve coming close and close; the cyber bad boys are accelerating their efforts to fool the internet users and make money to enjoy Christmas.

We have posted before the warnings and alerts for our readers from different sources to beware of internet fraud in the holiday season coming ahead. Online purchasing scams, lottery scams, winning notifications and lot more flooding towards cyber world to target the internet users for making money.

The latest mail, from SPINFINDER GMBH, on the subjected issue I got few days back and going to share with you:


From: Franziska Aloïs Süssmuth (Spinfinder GMBH) (
Sent: Sat, December 12, 2009 7:47:55 AM
Subject: FUNDS UPDATE SFG/567TY/09

Dear Beneficiary,

We have received your e-mail and instruction has been passed for the immediate release of your funds amounting One Million, Two Hundred Thousand US Dollars ($1,200,000USD) to you the beneficiary.

Your funds have been authorized for remittance to you; the verification exercise has been concluded. All you have to do is to contact the below mentioned Payment Officer to direct you on what to do.

Contact your Payment Officer on this e-mail:

Do send the below

Full Names:
Contact Address:
Reachable Telephone Number:
(To the Head of the International Remittance Department as below)

Ruben Freiss.
(Senior Payment Officer)
Director International Remittance Department
Bцrsenplatz 6, D-60313 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Private Tel: +49-1520-7660-661

Your urgent attention in contacting the director will expedite the release of your funds.

Franziska Aloпs Sьssmuth
Spinfinder GMBH
Frankfurt, Germany


So beware! Its a cyber world and you may be the next prospective target for these cybercriminals. Your comments and suggestions will add positivity to my efforts; so your comments and suggestions are welcomed and will be appreciated.

New Judicial Division to Handle Computer Crimes in Sharjah - - Reported By Khaleej Times

Dubai - The UAE government will set up a court dealing with cyber crimes in Sharjah as the country steps up its drive against growing sophistication among criminals operating via the internet, local daily Khaleej Times reported on Wednesday.

The country will also improve its laws against blackmail, pornography and financial fraud by people using the internet, Justice Minister Hadif bin Jowan al-Dhaheri said.

"We are working now to establish a special court related to cyber crime similar to that which deals with labour matters," Dhaheri was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

He said the court will be federal and will be located in Sharjah to “deal mostly with cyber crime cases in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates”.

The larger emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have their own courts to rule on cyber crimes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Growing Popularity of Cloud Computing Givng Target to Cybercriminals - - A Study by Trend Micro, Company Specialized in Internet Security

The growing popularity of cloud computing and virtualisation among companies could lead to them being the next possible target of cyber criminals. According to a report brought out by Trend Micro, a company that specialises in internet security, cloud computing, while offering significant benefits and cost-savings, moves servers outside the traditional security perimeter making it easy for the reach of cyber criminals.

The industry already witnessed 'danger' or 'sidekick' due to the cloud-based server failure that caused major data outages in November 2009, highlighting cloud-computing risks that cybercriminals are likely to abuse.

According to the report, cyber criminals will either be manipulating the connection to the cloud or attacking the data centre and cloud itself. The next-generation protocol designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, Internet Protocol (v. 6), is still in the experimentation stages of replacing the current (IPv4), now 20 years old. “As users start to explore the new protocol so will cyber criminals. Possible avenues for abuse include new covert channels,” said Amit Nath, country manager, India and SAARC, Trend Micro.

“The quality and quantity of data posted openly by most trusting users on their profile pages, combined with interaction clues are more than enough for cybercriminals to stage identity thefts and targeted social engineering attacks. The situation will worsen in 2010 with high-profile personalities suffering from online impersonators or stolen bank accounts,” the report says.

Internet Scams Grown Quickly in Number And Sophistication - - Better Business Bureau Branch's List of Top 10 Online Scams

Online ads selling everything from teeth whiteners to premium text messages made it into the 2009 Top 10 scams listed by the B.C. branch of the Better Business Bureau.

The Vancouver-based bureau focused on internet scams this year because they have grown so quickly in number and sophistication.

"The main issue is all about consent," spokesman Mark Fernandes said in an interview with CBC News on Monday.

"Some of the scams are just a bit of misleading advertising. A lot of the time, the consumer's credit card information is going from one company that they know they're doing business with to another third-party firm that they don't have a relationship with. So it's not one transaction but two."

It's a classic bait-and-switch operation now making the rounds on the internet. Customers think they're buying one product but end up with another. And worse, they're being billed monthly at a much higher rate, he said.

The products can range from tooth whiteners to premium text messenging services to offers of access to government grants. Different products, same modus operandi, he said.

According to the bureau, web marketers are savvy about consumers who click first and ask questions later. They profit from it, while consumers lose.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, known as Phonebusters, recorded nearly 200,000 complaints this year. And according to the federal Competition Bureau, internet scams went from being the fourth most common scam complaint in 2007 to the top complaint in 2008 and continuing into 2009.

The Better Business Bureau released this list of top scams, not in order of severity:

1. Health claim scams: A bogus product makes a "breakthrough" health claim on the internet or promises cures. These have flourished during the swine flu crisis.

2. Not-so-free trials: An online ad invites you to try a new diet product or teeth whitener, but many websites don't disclose the billing terms and conditions, or list them on another page, where consumers rarely look.

3. ID theft: Online scammers send emails that look legitimate, requesting that your "account information needs to be updated." Another tactic called "scareware" has a pop-up message showing that your computer is infected with a virus and you need to visit a website to purchase and download anti-virus software that would fix the problem.

4. Home repair ripoffs: In this more old-fashioned scam, homeowners are told they need an immediate furnace replacement because of a crack in their heat exchanger, or the "contractor" has a gas-sniffer device that shows high carbon monoxide levels.

5. Small business loan and supply scams: Companies call businesses, pretending to be a regular supplier looking to confirm an address in a directory. Once bills arrive for unwanted advertising or overpriced supplies, aggressive "collection" agents call with threats of legal action.

6. Free government money schemes: Companies offer "free" advice on obtaining government grants. Often social networking sites and online ads will point to blogs that appear to be written by everyday people who are sharing the secret of how they received thousands of dollars in grants from the government to pay off their debt.

7. Business opportunities: Often, they are illegal pyramid schemes, where new capital brought on by new investors is keeping this imaginary investment afloat.

8. Cashback fraud: A buyer agrees to pay your asking price of something you're selling online, but sends you a cheque or banker's draft for a larger sum. You're asked to cash the cheque and send a money transfer for the difference. Sure enough, the cheque bounces a few days after your money transfer has left your account.

9. Hidden cellphone charges: People who sign up to play online games or take IQ tests find themselves also signed up for expensive premium text services for their cellphone through third-party companies.

10. Mystery jobs scams: Mystery shopper ads in newspapers or online are in most cases bogus services requiring you to pay money upfront.

Californian Resident Jackie Reed Struck with Nigerian Phishing Scam

Laguna Woods (California, USA) resident Jackie Reed says that she was aware of the Nigerian phishing fraud in which an offshore e-mail tells recipients to send in money, but she wasn't aware that the same scam victimized her.

On December 4, 2009, Reed found that her account sent an e-mail to over 100 addresses on her friends list, stating that she was stranded while traveling Nigeria, therefore she urgently required $2,500 as all her money was stolen.

Furthermore, the e-mail also stated that the money must be sent via Western Union. However, Reed wasn't traveling when her friends and family got the phony e-mail. Six of them called Reed top know her wellness.

Reed said - someone hacked into her e-mail account after she had replied to messages that apparently arrived from Yahoo! Mail website back in October 2009, enquiring about her password and e-mail details.

She also says that she informed majority of people on her contact list, but still 75% people possibly remain who wouldn't know in any way that she's actually alright. Further, the personal Yahoo account is currently deactivated while she has contacted Yahoo! Mail Services for a resolution to the problem, Reed indicates.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! Mail Services has been trying to help users like Reed who fall victim to e-mail frauds by cautioning on its Internet site about scammers, who distribute fraudulent e-mails or create fraudulent websites that imitate the login pages of Yahoo so that users may be made to reveal their usernames and passwords in something that is called "phishing."

According to Yahoo, it wouldn't ever ask users to furnish their passwords via phone or e-mail as well as wouldn't ever request them to provide their debit/credit card details through e-mail.

Still for anyone who has been victimized by a phishing e-mail seeking his/her Yahoo password, that person must confirm personal account information in order to recover access to his/her account.

Eventually, victims like Reed can notify e-mails of these kinds to the Internet Crime Complaint Center that accepts complaints regarding online crimes at the local, state, federal and international level.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Identity Theft is One of The Fastest-growing Crimes in The US - - Keep Your Identity Safe During Holidays' Shopping on Internet

Whether buying online or at a bricks-and-mortar store, shoppers should take extra precautions to safeguard their personal information these next few weeks, according to law enforcement and state officials.

According to the Maryland Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country.

During the holiday shopping season, when many are spending more than usual, consumers are more exposed to potential scams and fraud, said Hugh Williams, identity theft program administrator of the division.

Identity theft tactics run the gamut, from stealing purses or wallets to obtain credit card numbers to such high-tech crimes as computers hacking.

Recently, ATM skimming has been making a comeback in the Baltimore area, according to Williams.

Last month, the Maryland State Police discovered a skimming device placed on an ATM at the Bank of America branch in Eldersburg, which compromised about 100 debit cards.

A skimmer is a tiny card reader used to steal information found on the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. They are easily concealed, so people should inspect ATMs for potential signs of tampering, such as scratches, tape and any unusual appearance, Williams said.

“If something looks off, there’s a good sign there’s something wrong,” he said.

That applies to online shopping as well.

Williams said people who plan to shop on the Web should make sure their Internet connection is secure and their anti-virus software is up to date. They should stick to Web sites for major retailers, which are more likely to be legitimate, and always look for a lock symbol in the lower-right corner of the page before making any purchases. The symbol means the page is secure, he said.

Melissa Hockensmith, deputy state’s attorney in Carroll County, said people should never give out personal information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers, unless they absolutely know the business or person they are dealing with is legitimate.

She said she gets many complaints about phishing e-mails, which appear to be sent from a bank or other business. The e-mail may prompt the recipient to click on a link or enter account information; instead, the person should contact the business directly to find out if it is legitimate.

During the holidays, people also risk having their credit cards physically stolen.

Car break-ins tend to increase at this time of year, so it’s wise for people to always lock their car doors and never leave wallets, purses or valuables in plain view inside a vehicle, she said.

“It’s just an invitation,” Hockensmith said.

Lt. John Shippee, who oversees the fraud investigative unit of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, said people also risk identity theft when they fill out applications for credit cards at retail stores.

Sometimes, the clerk will just discard the application, which may contain the person’s Social Security number. Someone can use that information to open up lines of credit.

“You won’t know it until you start receiving bills or a collections agency contacts you,” Shippee said.

Hockensmith said that if people suspect they have been victims of identity theft, they should file a police report, put out a fraud alert on the credit card and close the tampered account. She advised people to act immediately once they suspect something is amiss.

According to Shippee, it takes very little information for an identity thief to drain a person’s bank account. “With all the information we give out and how easy it is to be compromised, there’s no 100 percent safeguard,” he said.

Dollar Redesign - - Email Hoax Circulating on Internet Claiming The Images of New Dollar Notes to be Released in 2010

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email claims that a series of attached images depict new US dollar notes, including a $200 bill, that are to be released by the US government in 2010.

In fact, the subjected mail's contents and images are totally untrue. This is just an imagination of somebody and there is no such official news from US Government.

First of all, just review the mail contents and then we'll explain the motive of he mail in detail:



2010 new U. S. Dollars

Be the first to witness the new U.S. Dollars. A $200 bill will start next year i.e. from 2010

Editor's Note:
This email forward circulates with front and back images of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar notes as well as the $200 note images included above.
Images credit: Michael Tyznik

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This email forward claims that a series of attached images that come with the message are a preview of new designs for US paper currency that will be released in 2010. The images, which consist of front and back views of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 dollar notes, depict a radically different design and appearance than the traditional US "greenback".

However, the images are not a preview of soon to be released dollar notes. Instead, they are one person's concept of a possible new design for future US currency. There are no official plans to actually issue such newly designed notes.

The images were created by graphic designer Michael Tyznik. The original images are available on Michael Tyznik's website and were also submitted as a contest entry on the Dollar ReDe$ign Project blog. In their original context, it was perfectly clear that the images represented only a possible design for dollar notes and there was no suggestion that they had been commissioned by the United States government or in any other way officially endorsed. Tyznik has added the following disclaimer on his website in an effort to dispel the false claims:

Note: Contrary to rumors circulating in chain emails, this design is not the work of or in any relation to the U.S. government. It was my entry to the Dollar Rede$ign contest and is purely speculative.

Apparently, out of misunderstanding or mischief, someone has taken the images out of their original context and relaunched them in the form of an email forward that falsely claims that the speculative designs will actually replace current US dollar designs in 2010.

WNCT, a CBS Eyewitness News Channel has also debunked the hoax email:

Tysnik was just one of a number of designers who submitted new designs to the Dollar ReDe$ign Project. Although the spreading of the hoax was certainly not the fault of Michael Tyznik, it is nevertheless a testament to his outstanding design skills that his dollar designs were good enough to fool so many recipients into believing that they were the real thing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cybercrime Become a Much Bigger Problem Than Even Drug Trafficking - - Secure Your PC and Vital Information Resources

Did you know that cybercrime has now become a much bigger problem than even drug trafficking? In fact, if studies are to be believed, an identity is stolen every three seconds somewhere around the world. This unabated rise in cybercrime is mostly on account of unsafe computer use.

If you have invested in a new laptop or a desktop this year, don't gamble with your PC's security by using some free security software.

Whether it's a top anti-virus, a firewall, some anti-spyware software or just parental controls - always remember that the cost of such software is a small price to pay for securing all that data or financial details you store on your laptop or PC.

AVG Internet Security 9.0
Price: Rs 1,001

The anti-malware software AVG has been one of the most popular free anti-virus tools and is tagged just behind software security products from McAfee and Symantec.

Its latest version, AVG 9.0, complements the security features of Windows 7, making it great for desktop security. The software installs smoothly and quickly, requiring a reboot.

AVG is fairly light on resources. It requires a minimum of 390MB hard disk space and a 512MB RAM for installation.

A straightforward approach makes it easy to get used to - a point that should appeal to less experienced users. The firewall has also improved, allowing the software to make decisions automatically. The anti-spyware scanner included with AVG Internet Security is one of the most effective in any Internet security suite.

The vendor has included an Alternate Data Stream, or ADS, scanner with AVG 9.0, which can scan through hidden files and find spyware and viruses, making it extremely effective in keeping your computer clean and safe.

Available for Rs 1,001, the AVG Internet Security 9.0 subscription is valid for one year (single PC licence). What impressed us is AVG's inclusion of features like LinkScanner, which can integrate itself with Web browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer, protecting users from threats, such as drive-by downloads and malicious codes embedded in Web pages.

Nonetheless, it still lags many rivals in terms of system scan times and it has room for more depth in its protection layers.

Norton Internet Security 2010
Price: Rs 1,450

This one is Norton' fastest to install and lightest security software yet. Simply put, once out of the box, Norton Internet Security 2010 is designed to work immediately. During our review, we managed to install the software, reboot the system and update the virus definitions in less than six minutes. An average user can safely rely on default settings, yet be completely protected.

Norton 2010 comes with a new technology used for reputation-analysis. This leverages the wisdom of Norton's tens of millions of participating customers to derive highly accurate security ratings for virtually every file available on the Internet.

The result: Symantec users end up making safer choices when it comes to the software they download and install on their computers. Norton's software also scans every file that is transferred to your computer, whether it comes via email, a download or any other manner. As a result, all files are scanned when they reach the computer.

The two-way firewall on Norton 2010 also protects your system from being hacked by blocking any unauthorised access on a network. For up-to-the minute protection, it constantly updates its database every five to 15 minutes, which can be pushed to your machine via Pulse updates (for this, Live updates need to be enabled). Norton Internet Security 2010 costs Rs 1,450 for a one-year subscription (single PC license).

Kaspersky Internet Security 2010
Price: Rs 1,559

Once loaded, Kaspersky Internet Security 2010 needs no additional adjustments at the user's end and does not even slow down the computer when it scans system files.

Surprisingly, Kaspersky's real time scanner did not slow down our system during our review, even when we transferred or saved large files. It also didn't cause any significant slowdowns while opening programmes or booting up (requires a minimum 200MB of hard disk space and 256MB RAM for installation).

Kaspersky Internet Security also allows you to perform configuration changes while it runs scans. This simply means that, while running a scan on your computer, it will not just be a glorified paperweight waiting for the scan to finish.

For the technophobes, file scan options are split up into categories that are easy to understand. Be assured that Kaspersky will deliver a secure environment for browsing. Inclusions like a rootkit scanner (rootkits are programmes that take control of a computer without the owner's permission) are very capable in protecting your computer.

With a few extra bells and whistles, Kaspersky Internet Security Suite 2010 is a good investment. However, the price tag of Rs 1,559 for a one-year subscription (single PC license) is more than what an average user would spend willingly.

Kaspersky's attempt to include some basic parental controls is nice, but they clearly did a shoddy job of it. Its weak parental controls forces us to recommend an additional dedicated parental control software too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reality of The Mail Showing Story That Claims 450 Gaza Grooms Wed Girls Under Ten in Mass Muslim Marriage Arranged By Hamas in Gaza

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Protest message, supposedly supported by photographs of child brides, claims that 450 girls under ten were forced to marry adult men in a mass Muslim marriage recently held in Gaza.

The story mentioned in the mail is totally false. The text and photographs blatantly misrepresent the true nature of the mass marriage, just to arise a flood of anti-islamic sentiments and hostile debate against Islam and Muslims.

Let's have look on the contents and photographs of mail being circulated via mail and posted on different cyber forums:




Muhammed married a six year old bride. But Islam has evolved in 1500 years. In Hamas land, in 2009, the brides are almost seven.

Mass Muslim Marriage

450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza

A gala event has occurred in Gaza.

Hamas sponsored a mass wedding for four hundred and fifty couples. Most of the grooms were in their mid to late twenties; most of brides were under ten.

Muslim dignitaries including Mahmud Zahar, a leader of Hamas, were on hand to congratulate the couples who took part in the carefully staged celebration.

"We are saying to the world and to America that you cannot deny us joy and happiness," Zahar told the grooms, all of whom were dressed in identical black suits and hailed from the nearby Jabalia refugee camp.

Each groom received a gift of 500 dollars from Hamas.

The pre-pubescent girls, dressed in white gowns and adorned with garish make-up, received bridal bouquets.

"We are presenting this wedding as a gift to our people who stood firm in the face of the siege and the war," local Hamas strongman Ibrahim Salaf said in a speech.

The wedding photos tell the rest of the sordid tale.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

Messages like the example included above are currently circulating via email and have also been posted to a great many blogs, online forums and social networks around the world, where they have generated a flood of often vitriolic anti-Islamic sentiment and very heated debate. The messages claim that hundreds of pre-pubescent girls were forced to marry adult grooms in a recent mass wedding ceremony in Gaza organized by Palestinian Islamic organization, Hamas. According to the messages, 450 brides, most of whom were under ten years old, were married to 450 grooms most of whom were in their mid to late twenties. The messages accuse Hamas of actively and willfully promoting pedophilia and condemn the act as "bizarre & shameful".

Support for these claims is centered around several photographs supposedly showing tiny "brides" dressed all in white and holding the hands of their much taller, grown-up "grooms". However, while a mass wedding did indeed take place in Gaza in July 2009, the claim that the photographed children were actually the brides in the ceremony is untrue. These photographs represent virtually the entire "body of evidence" that supports the claims in these indignant protest messages. However, this supposed photographic "evidence" is in fact meaningless because they do not actually depict child brides at all. Instead, they show young family members of either the bride or the groom. At such Muslim wedding ceremonies, it is a tradition for young girls to dress up and play a role in the celebrations in a way similar to how flower girls are used in Western wedding ceremonies. Although these young girls do look like little brides, they are certainly not the ones getting married.

Hamas has vehemently denied that any children were married at the event. In fact, a Hamas official told WorldNetDaily that the youngest girl married at the ceremony was 16 years old while most were over 18 years of age.

These scurrilous and inflammatory reports began circulating soon after the Hamas sponsored mass-wedding took place. A 30 July 2009 AFP news article notes:

Nearly a thousand Palestinians celebrated marriage on Thursday night in a ceremony organized by Hamas in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas dignitaries including Mahmud Zahar, one of the militant group's top leaders, were on hand to congratulate 450 grooms who took part in the carefully stage-managed event.

"We are saying to the world and to America that you cannot deny us joy and happiness," Zahar told the men, all of whom were dressed in identical black suits and hailed from the nearby Jabalia refugee camp.

Each groom received a present of $500 from Hamas, which said its workers had also contributed five per cent of their monthly salaries to add to the wedding gift.

Much has been made of the fact that no photographs of the real brides have made it into news reports about the event. This seeming omission has been seized upon by many commentators as more evidence that the children in the photographs really are the brides in spite of denials by Hamas and others. However, the absence of the brides is in fact just a reflection of how Muslim public ceremonies are conducted. News reports indicate that "the 450 brides shared none of the glamour, taking seats among the audience" while their grooms actively participated in event ceremonies. And a SkyNews video report about the mass wedding notes in reference to the brides that "The women are elsewhere". Tim Marshall, the journalist who presented the SkyNews video, was actually there at the mass wedding ceremony. In a blog post about his attendance, Marshall reiterates that the brides were elsewhere, noting that some of them were among the guests. He also writes:

The men and women are sitting, Most ignore the speeches, some even ignore the prayers. Then the fireworks explode, the cheering begins, and in march the Hamas scouts, bashing drums, looking every inch the future Hamas fighters many will be. Then the grooms, aged about 18 to about 28. They are holding hands with their young nieces and cousins, little girls aged from about 3 to 8, made up to the nines, wearing white wedding dresses.

Up they all go to the stage, the cheering and music grows ever louder. The girls were having the time of their lives, but, getting a little bored after a while, came down off the stage to dance with each other and play games.

Our report on this put it into context saying that it took place just a mile from the Israeli border and was a message from Hamas about its strength confidence and future fighters. Oh and that the brides were elsewhere. Pretty straightforward. It never struck me for a moment that the little girls might later be described in the bloggersphere as the brides! How naive I am.

Moreover, the 2009 mass-wedding is not at all unprecedented. An October 2008 New York Times article reporting on a Hamas sponsored mass wedding held in that year, notes that it was the tenth such event held in Gaza. The article also mirrors reports about the 2009 event, noting:

The 300 grooms were dressed in black pants, white shirts and colorful ties but no jackets, because of recent budget cuts. The brides, sitting separately among the women, wore head scarves and black robes over their evening dresses but were easily spotted by their heavy makeup. The couples had all signed marriage contracts before the event.

Ironically, reports about the 2008 event also featured photographs of young girls clad in white bride-like dresses. The New York Times article shows such youngsters dancing in front of the grooms. Apparently, the poison-pen denizens of the blogosphere saw no reason to conclude that the children in photographs of the 2008 mass wedding were actually the brides, so one wonders why they have so rabidly done so in 2009.

Perhaps the 2009 images are a little more compelling and it is, I suppose, at least possible that whoever first perpetrated these inflammatory falsehoods did so out of genuine misunderstanding. What is less forgivable - "bizarre & shameful" even - is that many hundreds of bloggers have gleefully perpetrated such errant nonsense in their publications without taking the few minutes required to check the veracity of its claims. While free speech is (or should be) a fundamental human right, perhaps even home-based citizen journalists should take at least some responsibility in ensuring that the information they publish is factual and accurate.

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