Thursday, April 29, 2010

Amazing Email Claiming That Babies Made from Marzipan to be Used as Cake Decoration - - Reality and Analysis

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

An email message spreading on the internet claims that attached photographs show cake-frosting babies made from marzipan.

The fact is that the photographs are genuine, but the babies are not made from marzipan nor are they used as cake decorations. In fact, the babies are polymer clay sculptures created by artist, Camille Allen.

Let see the images and mail content of this hoax:


Subject: Fw: Frosting? You've got to be KIDding!

These babies are made of cake frosting , but who could take a bite? THIS WOMAN IS DEFINITELY TALENTED....

Marzipan Babies
Thought you'd be as fascinated with these as I. These are made with marzipan....really unbelievable! Every detail is amazing, and they look VERY real.

Marzipan is Almond paste: a sweet paste made of ground almonds and sugar, often with egg whites or yolks, used as a layer in cakes or molded into ornamental shapes.



Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to this email, the delightful and incredibly detailed miniature babies featured in the attached photographs are made of marzipan frosting and are used as edible cake decorations. However, this claim is untrue. Although the photographs are genuine, the babies they depict are in fact polymer clay sculptures created by talented artist, Camille Allen.

The photographs are also sometimes attached to an inspirational story about a premature baby called "The Smell of Rain" that has circulated via email for a number of years. While the story itself is basically factual, the images of Camille Allen's clay babies were apparently added to some versions of the email later and have no relation to the events described.

Camille Allen's website includes the following statement about these emails:
Note: If you've seen the following emails:
"The Smell of Rain"
"Marzipan Babies" ( Or "Sugar Babies")
"The most expensive chocolates in the world"
"She makes babies"
"This is incredible! She makes babies..."
"Elle fait des bébés..... !!! on en mangerait!!!"
"WOW! marzipan babies"

Decorative fruit made from Marzipan

If you have seen these emails you have probably seen some images taken from this website. However those pictures are really of sculptures created out of clay by Camille Allen.

The babies are NOT made of Marzipan, icing, chocolate or soap; they are not edible.
They are not real premature babies.
Marzipan - a paste made from almond and sugar - is indeed suitable for creating frosting models and is often used to decorate cakes with attractive three-dimensional shapes. However, it certainly was not used to create these wonderfully detailed baby sculptures.

More images of Camille Allen's babies are available on her website. The artist creates life-size baby dolls as well as miniatures. While many of the babies featured on the site are now in private collections, some are for sale via the artist's website.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shark Attacking Scuba-Diving Couple During a Family Holiday in Australia - - Reality and Explanation of the Mail and Attached Image

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email claims that an attached image showing a large shark very close behind a scuba-diving couple is a real photograph taken during a family holiday in Australia.

With all the due research about the mail; it is found that this image is not a genuine photograph. In fact, it is a composite picture created by manipulating two or more other images. The image was an entry in a Photoshop contest.

Let's have a look to the image and mail contents:


Subject: Read before you look at the pic

Family on holiday in Australia for a week and a half when husband, wife and their 15 year old son decided to go scooba diving. The husband is in the navy and has had some scooba experience.

His son wanted a pic of his mum and dad in all their gear so got the under water camera on the go. When it came to taking the pic the dad realized that the son look like he was panicking as he took it and gave the "OK" hand sign to see if he was alright.

The son took the pic and swam to the surface and back to the boat as quick as he could so the mum and dad followed to see if he was OK. When they got back to him he was scrambling onto the boat and absolutely packing it.

When the parents asked why he said "there was a shark behind you" and the dad thought he was joking but the skipper of the boat said it was true and that they wouldn't believe him even if he told them what it was. As soon as they got back to the hotel they put the pic onto the laptop and this is what they saw.

(Try and tell me you wouldn't have emptied your entire digestive system right at the point you saw it)

Would you have stayed to take the picture??


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This striking image of a scuba diving couple being approached from behind by a very large shark is currently circulating via email. According to the message that comes with the picture, it was snapped by the couple's son during a family holiday in Australia. The relaxed demeanor of the divers adds to the visual impact of the picture since they are seemingly unaware of impending danger. What's more, the shark almost seems to be smiling, perhaps as it contemplates the tasty meal just ahead.

The message claims that both the pictured couple and the panicked youngster who snapped the photograph luckily made it back to the boat without becoming Great White Lunch. And it wasn't until they later viewed the photograph that the couple realized how close was their escape.

However, these claims are completely false and were apparently made up simply to provide a compelling background story to suit the image. Moreover, the image itself is not a genuine photograph, but a composite picture created by manipulating two or more other images. Research indicates that, in fact, the image was an entry in a Worth1000 Photoshop contest titled Vacation Bloopers 6. The entry was created by Worth1000 user "MataleoneRJ" and was titled My first diving in the vacations.

The deception becomes clear when one views the original, and unaltered, shark photograph (shown below). The Photoshop artist has cleverly merged an unrelated photograph of a diving couple with the shark photograph so that it appears that the shark is swimming just behind them. The placement of the divers in the manipulated image makes the shark appear to be much larger than it really is.

This shark image can be viewed on the Great White Adventures website.

Photoshop contest entries regularly escape the confines of the contest website and begin circulating via email and online, often accompanied by a fanciful tale invented by some unknown prankster. Within the context of the original contest website, the status of these manipulated images is quite clear and no deception is intended. However, once they stray outside of this context, these manipulated images are quite often good enough to fool many recipients into believing that they are genuine photographs.

Cybercrime on The Rise in South Africa As The FIFA World Cup 2010 Approaching

Africa is currently seeing a spur of phishing attacks, and with South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup this year, cyber criminals in that region are getting even busier.

“Major sporting events provide a perfect cover behind which cyber criminals can launch sophisticated attacks on individuals, companies and governments,” said researchers from Symantec. “These range from simple identity theft to full-blown denial of service attacks.”

Symantec recently reported that World Cup-related scams have included a 419-type of email that claims the recipient has won $1,950 million in a weekly lottery. Another targeted email attack enticed users to open an infected PDF attachment, and other unsuspected users had their computers infected by a Trojan when they tried to take advantage of a bogus offer of VIP passes to the World Cup.

As a result of increased cybercrime activities in South Africa before the soccer finals, Symantec has launched a special website with information on related attacks and how to buy genuine World Cup tickets.

So far, more than 100 sites selling fraudulent tickets have been shut down by FIFA and South African authorities in an effort to stop fake World Cup tickets from being purchased by unsuspecting victims, according to TechWorld.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Cave Dewelling" in Afghanistan: Alleged Hide-out of Osama Bin Laden - - Reality of The Mail Showing Natural Cone-shaped Rock Formations

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Message claims that a series of photographs showing incredible "cave" dwellings cut in to natural cone-shaped rock formations depict a village in Afghanistan.

The reality of the shown photographs can't be challenged; as the village is real and the photographs are genuine. However, the village is not located in Afghanistan as claimed in the message. In fact, the photographs show a village named Kandovan that is located in Iran.

Before going towards the detailed explanation; let's have a look to the contents of the mail and the attached photographs:


Subject: Village in Afghanistan ... Incredible!

Village in Afghanistan . Can you believe it?

Very interesting.

And you wonder why they can't find Osama Bin Laden?


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to the description that comes with this very interesting series of images, they depict a village located in Afghanistan. The images show a small town, complete with dwellings, stairways, paths and walk bridges, that has apparently been carved out of strange cone-shaped natural formations nestled on a hillside. The message suggests that it is not surprising that terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden has not been found given that such hidden "cave" dwellings exist in Afghanistan.

However, while the images themselves are genuine, the accompanying description in this message is inaccurate. The village depicted in the photographs is not located in Afghanistan at all. In fact, the village can be found in the northwest corner of neighboring Iran, about 60 kilometers from the city of Tabriz. Known as "Kandovan", the village is thought to be over 700 years old. Many of the dwellings in Kandovan have been carved out of natural cone-shaped formations made from compressed volcanic ash. Information about the village published on The Heritage Institute website notes:
What makes Kandovan village so unique is that many of its homes have been made in caves located in cone-shaped, naturally formed compressed volcanic ash formations that make the landscape look like a gigantic termite colony. This method of dwelling makes the residents modern-age cave dwellers or troglodytes. (Troglodyte means cave dweller: somebody living in a cave, especially somebody who belonged to a prehistoric cave-dwelling community. Troglodyte also means somebody living in seclusion.)

It is our understanding that the unusual cone formations were formed from volcanic ash and debris spewed during an eruption of Mount Sahand being hardened and shaped by the elements over thousands of years. The formation of volcanic ash cones is local to Kandovan. Elsewhere, the ash blanketed the land. The existence of a high volume of ash and pumice far from Sahand's crater indicates that Mount Sahand erupted with a gigantic explosion in the distant past.
Tourists from all around the world visit Kandovan. A modern and well-appointed hotel, built in the tradition of the village's centuries old homes, is available in the area to accommodate visitors. Despite their age, many of the homes in the village are very comfortable and feature all the facilities of more modern Iranian homes. The following YouTube video provides more insight into this unique village and its residents:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reality and Explanation of the Mail About Cell Phone Gun Security Threat at The High Risk Locations

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email warns that guns disguised as cell phones have been discovered and that the devices may pose a security threat at high risk locations such as airports.

The mail contents are true up to some extent; as cell phone guns are real and law enforcement authorities and airport security staff are certainly well aware of them. However, they are by no means "very new" as suggested in the warning message. Such devices have been around for a number of years.

Email contents are like follows:


Subject: Fw: MUST SEE: Airport security

MUST SEE - Airport security
This is a must read and something very new

Most of us see airport security as a pain. Some of us even feel violated.
When you see the pictures below, you will understand why they want our cell phones through the x-ray machine. If you get asked to test your cell phone at the airport, this is the reason.

Cell phone guns have arrived. And they are real.

Beneath the digital phone face is a .22 caliber handgun capable of firing four rounds in rapid succession using the standard telephone keypad. European law enforcement officials are stunned by the discovery of these deadly decoys. They say phone guns are changing the rules of engagement in Europe.

Only when you have one in your hand do you realize that they are heavier than a regular cell phone.

Be patient if security asks to look at your cell phone or turn it on to show that it works . They have a good reason! Wake up to our NEW WORLD!! We shouldn't complain about airport security invading your privacy.

(Note: Some versions of the message also arrive with the following video as an attached file)


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to this warning message, .22 caliber handguns that look like cell phones have been discovered by law enforcement officials in Europe. The message contains attached images of such a device along with a graphic depicting how a cell phone gun works. An apparently authentic video clip of a cell phone gun being fired is also included with some versions of the email. Two of the images contained in the message are in fact stills taken from this video. The message notes that such guns can fire up to four rounds by pressing numbers on the cell phone keypad.

Guns like the one described in the message are certainly real. However, they are not a new development as suggested in this warning message. In fact, reports of cell phone guns go back to at least the year 2000. The same images along with the video clip of a cell phone gun in action have been posted to numerous websites, blogs and social networks over several years

The video was shown as part of a WCBSTV news report in May 2006. According to the accompanying article on the WCBSTV website, New York City police were warned to keep an eye out for the cell phone guns via an internal memo. Cell phone guns have several times been the subject of security alerts in the United States and elsewhere. A 2004 article in Time magazine notes that screening equipment at airports is normally able to detect cell phone guns and other such devices. Cell phone guns are considerably heavier than normal cell phones.

A cell phone gun could certainly kill or seriously injure someone. However, a CNN report about the weapons notes that they are "extremely inaccurate" and therefore effective only at very close range.

Although cell phone guns are real, I could find no reports of the devices actually being used in major crimes such as attempted hijackings or terrorist activities. However, there have been several reports of cell phone guns being seized from criminals in Europe.

The concept of disguising guns as everyday items is actually nothing new. For many years, guns and other weapons have been disguised to look like pens, calculators, cameras, canes and a number of other commonplace objects.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Email Hoaxes - - Reality of the Mail Warning That Gmail Deleting Unused Accounts

Beware It's a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email, purporting to be an official notification from webmail service Gmail, claims that the user's Gmail account will be deleted if he or she does not forward the message to other contacts.

Actually, this warning is a nonsensical hoax and should not be taken seriously. Gmail is not deleting the accounts of those who fail to forward a message to other contacts. Versions of this hoax have now been circulating for several years. Other variants of the hoax have targeted other popular webmail services including Hotmail and Yahoo. All versions are equally false.

Let have a look to the contents of the said mail:


Subject: FW: Officail Gmail Notification

Dear Gmail users:

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that Gmail's system has been getting slower. This is due to the increasing number of Gmail accounts. Since this occurrence, we have decided to delete accounts that are no longer in use. We will determine who's account is deleted depending on if you forward this message. If you would like to keep your account, then please send this to all of your contacts to let us know that your account is still in use. If this message is not sent to other accounts, your account will become invalid and your email may be taken by another loyal user. We are sorry if this may cause any inconvenience.


Paul Buchheit (Creater of Gmail)


Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to this email, which purports to be an official notification from Google's webmail service, Gmail, the recipient's Gmail account will be deleted if he or she does not forward the email to his or her contacts. The message claims that the Gmail system is getting slower "due to the increasing number of Gmail accounts" and inactive accounts must therefore be deleted. The email informs recipients that they can prove that their account is still in use - and thereby save their account from deletion - by sending on the warning message to others on their email contact list.

However, the claims in the email are utter nonsense. Gmail certainly will not delete the accounts of those who fail to forward a particular email message to others. In fact, this "warning" message is just one in a long line of similar hoaxes that have targeted a number of other online services for more than a decade. The following links point to articles debunking other versions of the hoax:

Any message that claims that your account with a specified online service will be deleted unless you send the messages on to other users is virtually certain to be a hoax. Pranksters have regularly used this ruse because it is a tried and tested method of ensuring that their silly hoax messages will continue to circulate for months or even years. Many recipients hit the forward button without due forethought when they are sent one of these messages because they are fooled into believing that they must do so in order to save their accounts. Thus, these utterly pointless hoax messages continue spreading aimlessly via email and social networks.

Of course, many service providers, including webmail services, often do reserve the right to terminate accounts that have been inactive for a lengthy period of time. Indeed, Gmail notes the following on its help pages:
A dormant address is a Gmail address that hasn't been used for six months.
You can still receive mail if your address is dormant, but you need to log in to keep your account active.

If you don't log in to Gmail within three months of it being labeled dormant -- or for nine consecutive months -- Google may delete the address.
However, you certainly do not need to forward a silly email in order to prove that your account is still active. For Gmail, and most other providers, all you need to do to keep your account active is simply login to the account from time to time.

If you receive one of these hoax messages, please do not forward it on to others. By doing so, you are simply playing into the hands of the foolish prankster who created the hoax in the first place.

Internet users should also be aware that "warning" messages that are superficially similar to these account deletion hoaxes are also used for much more sinister purposes by Internet based criminals. For example, a phishing scam emails designed to steal account login details from Gmail users also falsely claim that inactive Gmail accounts are being deleted. Rather than simply duping recipients into forwarding a silly email, these scam messages attempt to fool users into replying with their Gmail username and password. The login details supplied by the victim can then be used by scammers to hijack the user's account and use it to perpetrate further scams and spam attacks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beware of The Online Scams - - Few Guidelines to Help Prevent Possible Cybercrime Victimization

With the stagnant economy and limited job availability, people are looking for good deals, selling items to make ends meet, and looking for stay-at-home jobs.

While the majority of online classified advertising users, such as those on Craigslist, are trustworthy, a significant number of people are using this service to commit fraud.

Scammers use the preface of selling or buying cars, event tickets, personal items, or renting apartments. The Police Departments regularly field calls from people who have been victims, as well as from those who didn’t fall for dubious requests to cash checks or money orders or to send payment in advance.

Detectives want people to be aware of the following scams:

-- Someone sends you a check, cashier’s check or a money order for payment of an item they are buying from you. The payment is for more money than the agreed selling price and the purchaser contacts you and claims one of the following:

-- They accidentally sent too much money and ask you to cash the check or money order and wire them the extra funds.

-- They accidentally sent you their payroll check and ask you to cash the check and wire the extra funds to a different location where the mistake will be corrected.

--They accidentally sent too much money and ask you to wire the extra funds to a check cashing location in another state.

You are trying to buy an item. The seller:

-- Asks you to set up an online escrow account.

-- Asks you to send partial payment and the item will be sent and the remaining balance will be due upon receipt of the item.

You are offered a job with a non-local company:

-- A company representative says they will pay you to process payments from customers and to then forward the funds to the business.

How to avoid being a scam victim:

-- Always try to deal with local individuals when selling or buying items. Dealing with people face to face is generally a deterrent to being scammed.

-- Never provide personal financial information (eBay or PayPal info, checking account number, Social Security number, etc.)

-- Never cash personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, etc., unless the source is trustworthy and the funds are confirmed before you do so.

-- Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay, Squaretrade, or even PayPal.

-- Never send money through wire services unless you know for certain that the individual you are dealing with is trustworthy.

-- Always abide by the old standby: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beware Craiglist Users - - 'Too Good to Be True' Offers Turns into Internet Scam

POCATELLO - Pocatello Police are receiving an increase of calls from local people who have fallen victim to an Internet scam. If you are a Craigslist user here's why you need to beware.

This 5 bedroom 2 bathroom house used to be for rent for $1500 dollars, it's had a homeowner in it for the past year but this last weekend it was listed on Craigslist for only $700 a month. This too great of a deal turned out to be a big scam.

Rhonda Byers has lived in this home for over a year, and this weekend she had more than 20 unexpected visitors knocking at her door.

"It's very frustrating. People coming and asking, 'Can we just see the inside?' We said, 'No it's not for rent,'" explained Rhonda Byers, a homeowner.

Her house had been listed on Craigslist under rental properties, and it was only listed for $700 dollars a month.

"He said, 'I have it right here on my phone because it's on Craigslist.' And I said, 'You have got to be kidding me?' And we went and looked it up on the computer and sure enough it was," said Byers.

The so called renter on Craigslist asked for $300 dollars to be wired to her and they would send the resident the keys.

"We informed everybody that came to our house that this is was a scam, we said, 'Don't send these people money,'" Byers said.

But Rhonda is not the only local person that's recently been the center of a scam.

Vanessa and Daniel Williams were hoping to get into a new rental home before this Friday. When they saw the local rental listed on Craigslist they jumped on the offer. They filled out an online application, and wired the so called rental unit owner the money.

"I sent her the $900 and she gave me a run-around about the keys and I never got the keys. I went to the house and called the brokerage company and they said they had never heard of those people," explained Vanessa. "I was raised to trust people. For somebody to do this to my family, especially with my son, it really hurts."

Now the Williams stand without their $900 and behind on their bills.

Pocatello Police say these families are only two of the many victims of these types of scams.

"The Internet is making the scams much more accessible to the scammers. And so we are seeing a proliferation of them all the time now, daily now. The main key is if you're asked to wire funds to anywhere be it Western Union, Money Gram or anything else be extremely cautious. Once that money is wired, it's gone. Wiring money via Western Union or Money Gram or any of those is a huge tip to suspect a fraud," explained Kim Ellis, with the Pocatello Police.

Now for anyone out there that might detect a scam on Craigslist please call the police at 234-6241.

Beware that senior citizens are the most vulnerable to scams. Police say that family members can help out by keeping an eye out for fraudulent emails and items in their elders mailbox.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another Phishing Scam - - India's Punjab National Bank Updated Email Address Phishing Scam

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email, purporting to be from India's Punjab National Bank claims that the recipient's account email address has been updated. It instructs the recipient to fill in an attached form to restore the account if he or she feels that the change was unauthorized.

Another phishing scam ..... the email is not from the Punjab National Bank. Instead it is a phishing scam designed to trick bank customers into handing over their bank login details to Internet scammers.

Following are the contents of mail from cyber criminals:


From: Punjab National Bank
Subject:Your Punjab National Bank e-mail adress was successfuly updated

Dear Punjab National Bank member,

You have added [address removed] as a new email address for your Punjab National Bank account.

If you did not authorize this change, check with family members and others who may have access to your account first. If you still feel that an unauthorized person has changed your email, submit the form attached to your email in order to keep your original email and restore your Punjab National Bank account.

If you are using Internet Explorer please allow ActiveX for scripts to perform all data transfers securely .

Thank you for using Punjab National Bank !
The Punjab National Bank Team

Please do not reply to this email.
This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response.


Copyright © 2010 Punjab National Bank. All rights reserved.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This email, which purports to be from large Indian financial institution the Punjab National Bank (PNB), claims that the email address associated with the recipient's bank account has been updated. According to the message, the recipient should fill in and submit an attached form in order to restore the account if he or she feels that the email address change was unauthorized.

However, the message is not from the Punjab National Bank and the claim that the recipient's bank account email address has been changed is a lie designed to trick him or her into filling in and submitting an attached form.

Those who fall for the ruse and click on the attached file will be taken to a web-based form that asks them to submit their bank account user name and password, ostensibly to allow restoration of the account email address. The form has been designed to resemble the genuine PNB login page. Any information submitted on the bogus form will be sent to Internet criminals who can then use it to access the customer's real PNB account, steal funds deposited in the account and conduct other fraudulent activities.

Like other legitimate financial entities, the PNB does not send unsolicited emails asking its customers to provide bank account login details. The bank has published a notice on its website warning customers about such scams. The notice includes the following information:
REMEMBER – PNB will never contact you & ask for your logon details or password or any other personal information over email.

NEVER - follow a link within an email to use PNB’s Internet Banking - PNB will never ask you to login from a link in email. - Never tell password(s) to any body.

BEWARE - of fraudulent websites looking similar to PNB’s Internet Banking website. - of scam e-mails which may contain virus or be linked to a fraudulent website
In an increasingly common tactic, the criminals behind this scam attempt have included the fake web form as an HTML email attachment rather than directing victims to a fake website via links in the message. Opening the email attachment loads the fake form into the user's web browser. If the user then enters the requested details and clicks the "Submit" button, the scammers will receive a copy of all the details provided. Scammers are apparently using HTML attachments rather than links in the hope of avoiding the increasingly sophisticated phishing scam filters that come with modern web browsers and computer security software.

Phishing scammers randomly send out many thousands or even millions of identical scam emails in the hope that at least some of the messages will reach customers of the specific entity they are targeting - in this case the Punjab National Bank. While many or even most of the customers who receive one of the bogus emails will be aware of how phishing scams work and will not be fooled, there is likely to be at least a few more inexperienced users who fall for the ruse and submit their details as requested. It only takes a handful of victims to make the scam a lucrative exercise for the scammers.

Phishing scammers continually target, not only banks, but also many other entities including other financial service providers, email service providers, tax agencies and social networking websites. Internet users should be very cautious of any emails that ask them to click a link or open an attachment and provide their account login username and password and other personal information.

Friday, April 16, 2010

'Cocoa Mulch Can Be Harmful to Dogs' - - Reality and Analysis of the Mail Claiming That Cocoa Mulch Can be Fatal to Your Dog

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email forward warns that Cocoa Mulch can be harmful to dogs.

It is true that Cocoa Mulch can contain substances that can harm dogs if ingested in sufficient quantities. Dogs that consume cocoa mulch can develop methylxanthine toxicosis, a condition that can result in symptoms similar to canine chocolate poisoning. However, deaths from cocoa mulch poisoning appear to be quite uncommon.

Let's have a look to the mail contents and then we'll proceed towards the detailed analysis and explanation:


Example (Submitted 2010)

Subject: Fw: cocoa shell mulch

Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Even if you don't have a pet, please pass this to those who do.

Over the weekend, the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. The dogs loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog (Calypso) decided the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk . Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company's web site, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats.

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that "It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it."

Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores contains a lethal ingredient called 'Theobromine'. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks.

Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.


Example (Submitted 2006)

Please read and be cautious while gardening. Also pass it on to your pet lover friends.

URGENT info for pet owners......

Yesterday, one of our clients experienced a tragedy and wanted me to pass a special message along to all of my dog loving friends and family. I was hoping you could forward this to your contact list.

My client was the doting owner of two young lab/golden retriever mixes. Over the weekend, they purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. They set the bag in their yard. Their dog Calypso, decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat so she broke into it and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical of her when she would get into something she shouldn't?t have gotten in to. She was not acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly. Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company's website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs. Denise (Calypso's mom) wanted me to pass this information along so no one had to experience the same tragedy she went through.

In Loving Memory of Calypso.

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that "It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it."


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This email forward warns that Cocoa Mulch can be harmful to dogs and relates the story of a dog named Calypso who died after eating the product. The warning first began circulating back in 2006 and has since spawned several versions. The warnings have also been posted to many blogs, online forums and social networking websites.

It is true that Cocoa Mulch can be toxic to dogs

It is true that Cocoa Mulch can contain substances that can harm dogs if ingested in sufficient quantities. Cocoa Mulch is made from the shell of the cocoa bean and is a by-product of chocolate production. Since the mulch is organic in nature, works well, looks good and can give the garden a pleasant chocolaty smell, it is popular with home gardeners. However, cocoa mulch can contain theobromine and caffeine, which are chemicals called methylxanthines that can be harmful to dogs. Dogs that consume cocoa mulch can develop methylxanthine toxicosis, a condition that can result in symptoms similar to canine chocolate poisoning. According to an American Veterinary Medical Association article:
Vomiting and muscle tremors were the most common signs of toxicosis that occurred following ingestion. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the severity of clinical signs increased when larger amounts were ingested. Other signs were tachycardia, hyperactivity, and diarrhea.
One report, published in a 1984 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, notes:
A dog, which ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells, developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.
That said, deaths from cocoa mulch poisoning appear to be quite uncommon. Information in the AVMA article notes that there were no 2006 reports of lethal toxicosis due to cocoa mulch ingestion as of late April and, of the 16 mulch related reports fielded in 2004 and 2005, none were fatal. And an article about cocoa mulch published on the ASPCA website notes:
Dogs who consume enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors or other more serious neurological signs could occur. To date, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has not received any cases involving animal deaths due to cocoa mulch ingestion.
While the claim that coca mulch can cause canine illness is factual, the particular incident described in the message is unsubstantiated. It seems that the authors of these types of warning messages often have an unfortunate tendency to embellish the core information with anecdotal stories of questionable veracity, perhaps in a misguided attempt to add a human element to their claims. The message does not provide any method of verifying if Calypso did actually die as a result of consuming cocoa mulch or even if she was a real dog. The previously mentioned AVMA article questions the truth of the claims in the message:
The story being circulated about a young dog named Calypso ingesting cocoa bean shell mulch may be true, Dr. Hansen said, but the cause of the dog's death is "highly suspect." The statement that she vomited a few times is consistent with such poisoning, but not the absence of other clinical signs until the next day, when the dog is said to have had a single seizure during her morning walk and died instantly.

"A big problem from the perspective of a toxicologist and a veterinary clinician is that if you have poisoning from methylxanthines, you get a progression of signs — vomiting, diarrhea, more vomiting, trembling, the heart rate kicks up, then it may progress to seizures if the dose is exceptionally high, with death being uncommon," Dr. Hansen said. "A necropsy would have likely shown that Calypso had an underlying condition that caused her death."
Also, it should be noted that the level of methylxanthines is not the same in all cocoa mulches. The AVMA article notes that current processing technology may result in lower chemical residues. There are a number of companies that distribute the product. One, Florida Cocoa Mulch, claims to have sold millions of bags of cocoa mulch and never had a single report about a dog getting seriously ill from eating the product. However, it seems that several of the companies that previously distributed the product have now ceased to do so. The warning message claims that large US chocolate and sugar confectionery company, Hershey's distributes cocoa mulch. While the company did sell the product in the past, it no longer does so and has published the following information on its website:
The Hershey Company does not manufacture or market cocoa mulch. However, we periodically receive questions concerning cocoa mulch and pets.

Cocoa mulch consists of cocoa bean shells. Although not a food or a food ingredient, cocoa mulch, like chocolate products, contains naturally occurring theobromine and caffeine. As previously mentioned, animals like dogs are often sensitive to the theobromine, which can lead to toxicity and even death in some animals.

Dogs and other animals are often attracted by the pleasant aroma from cocoa shell mulch. Because it can be harmful to animals if ingested, think carefully about where you choose to apply the mulch and supervise your pets. These steps can effectively eliminate the possibility of animal consumption in a quantity sufficient to cause adverse affects. If your pet has eaten cocoa shell mulch, immediately contact your veterinarian.
Although the truth of Calypso's story may be somewhat questionable, dog owners should certainly take heed of the message's warning. If you have a dog, especially one that is not fussy about what it eats (not an uncommon characteristic among our canine friends), it would be wise to avoid the use of cocoa mulch, or at least keep a close eye on Rover's garden forays.

'Dangerous Acid Rain' Email Hoax - - Reality and Analysis of the Dark Circles Appearing Around the Moon

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Message warns recipients that there is a possibility of dangerous acid rain falling between the 20th and 28th of the month as indicated by dark circles appearing around the moon.

Nothing more than a hoax mail; actually, this warning is utter nonsense and should not be taken seriously. Dark circles around the moon are not an indication of impending acid rain. The alert is not from NASA as claimed in the email. In fact, a NASA spokesperson has denied any connection between circles around the moon and acid rain. Forwarding this false warning will do nothing more than cause unnecessary fear and alarm.

First see below the contents of the mail spreading on the cyber world:


Subject: Fw: Acid rain alert


Be careful from the 20th to 28th of this month, There is possibility of an ACID RAIN. The dark circle appeared around the moon on 17th of last month and this is an indication of Acid Rain. Apparently this happens once in 750 years.

It rains like normally but It may cause skin cancer if you expose yourself to it.

So ALERT your dear ones. This information is from NASA.

DO NOT neglect. Plz Forward this to your friends, Better to be cautious than sorry.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This widely circulated message warns recipients that cancer-causing acid rain may fall between 20th and 28th of the month. The warning circulates via email, text message and social networking websites. The message claims that dark circles that were seen around the moon during the previous month were an indication of the impending acid rain event. According to the message, the warning was issued by US space agency NASA.

Claims that a dark cycle around the moon indicates an impending acid rain event are untrue

However the claims in the warning message are utter nonsense. Dark circles around the moon are certainly not an indication of impending acid rain. Moreover, the information is not from NASA as claimed in the message. In fact, a NASA spokesperson has denied any connection between circles around the moon and acid rain. A March 22 2010 article on Nigerian based news outlet "The Will" notes:
A Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) expert with NASA, Bill Patzert in his response to an inquiry from THEWILL on Monday said a black or dark circle around the moon is a common occurrence in space and has no relationship whatsoever with acid rain. "Dark circles around the moon are more common than you realize. Basically it's an optical illusion when you get very clear skies and fine ice particle in the upper atmosphere. "What you get is the moon, a dark circle round it, then a sky lit up with diffracted moonlight. It looks pretty, that is all. Nothing mystical or paranormal at all,"he added.
A prominent African scientist has also debunked the rumour. A March 24 2010 Business Day article notes:
Joseph Akinyede, director, African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education and Bill Patzert, a meteorologist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Tuesday allayed fears that current dust haze in the country may result to acid rain.

Akinyede, who stated this at the third governing board meeting of the centre in Abuja, said that the foggy weather is not a signal to acid rain as widely rumoured.
Experts in Pakistan were also compelled to quell the rumour after the warning began causing alarm among Pakistani citizens. In an April 16 2010 article, Pakistani news outlet the Daily Times notes:
Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Director General Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry on Thursday refuted the rumours about ‘acid rain’ in the coming week saying, “the acid rain alerts being attributed to NASA are false.” Talking to this news agency, he said the rumours about chances of ‘acid rain’ during April 20- 28, through messages, emails and other blogs were all false.
Moreover, while acid rain can have a detrimental effect on human health, there are no indications that it will directly cause skin cancer to those who are exposed to it. Information about the effects of acid rain on human health published on America's Environmental Health Agency (EPA) website notes:
Acid rain looks, feels, and tastes just like clean rain. The harm to people from acid rain is not direct. Walking in acid rain, or even swimming in an acid lake, is no more dangerous than walking or swimming in clean water. However, the pollutants that cause acid rain—sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—do damage human health. These gases interact in the atmosphere to form fine sulfate and nitrate particles that can be transported long distances by winds and inhaled deep into people's lungs. Fine particles can also penetrate indoors. Many scientific studies have identified a relationship between elevated levels of fine particles and increased illness and premature death from heart and lung disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis.
The EPA Acid Rain website also notes that the "precursors, or chemical forerunners, of acid rain formation result from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man-made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from fossil fuel combustion" and can occur when "gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compound". Acid rain has therefore been recorded in many parts of the world at many different times. Thus, it is simply ridiculous to suggest that an acid rain event only happens once every 750 years as claimed in the warning message.

The bogus warning message does not contain any specific dates, which means that it is likely to continue its pointless journey around Cyberspace for many months or even years to come. Examples of this hoax message first began appearing in my email inbox, in early February 2010. Since these examples also spoke of circles around the moon "last month", the suggestion was that the acid rain event was to take place in late February. Of course, no such event occurred in February, nor did it occur in March as suggested in the next wave of nonsensical warnings. This trend is likely to continue month by month. Moreover, although the warning first began circulating around Nigeria and neighbouring countries, it does not specify any particular geographic region of the world. Thus, people all over the world are now receiving the warning, with many apparently believing that it pertains to their own region.

Sending on this absurd warning will serve only to raise unnecessary fear and alarm within communities. If you receive this hoax message, please do not send it to others. And please take a moment to inform the sender that the message is a hoax.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Email Hoaxes - - Reality of The Mail Circulating Video Showing Men Floating Above The Ground With Chewing Gum Bubble Filled With Helium

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Circulating video supposedly shows young men floating above the ground and jumping safely from a high bridge solely with the aid of a chewing gum bubble filled with helium.

Actually, all has done and shoot quite masterly using special effects. The video is not want it seems. The men are not really being lifted off the ground by helium filled gum bubbles. Its creators have used clever special effects to make it appear that the men are floating using gum bubbles.

Let's see the main contents and video clip annexed with the mail:


Subject: Chewing gum and helium experiment

This is incredible! Is this possible, as depicted in the wmv?


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This quite entertaining video circulates via YouTube and other video sharing websites as well as via email. Ostensibly, the video depicts a group of young men experimenting with chewing gum bubbles filled with helium gas. The footage shows the men floating in the air and even jumping safely off a high bridge, after blowing gum bubbles using helium that they sucked into their mouths. Supposedly, the helium trapped in the gum bubbles is able to quite easily lift the boys off the ground, at least until the bubble bursts.

Not surprisingly however, things are not as they seem. The makers of the video have actually used swings suspended below large booms to carry the boys through the air. With the aid of some clever special effects, the swings and booms have been removed from the footage, thus making it appear that the boys are flying through the air solely with the aid of the helium filled gum bubbles. A subsequent "reveal" video shows just how the stunts were achieved:

The video was created as an advertising related viral test. Viral video advertising is a relatively new and quite effective advertising strategy that has been used by an increasing number of companies. In such advertising campaigns, an entertaining video often depicting an outlandish stunt or event is launched on an unsuspecting Internet public. The companies hope that their videos will "go viral" thereby generating a lot of exposure for their products. In some cases, the video will include logos and other material promoting the company. In other cases, the advertiser is not immediately apparent. In this latter version of the tactic, the advertiser will "own up" to the video only after it has become popular and the object of a great deal of online debate. This strategy ensures that the name of the company or product is eventually discussed on a great many websites, blogs, forums and social networks, thereby providing the company with a great deal of free advertising.

The helium chewing gum video is designed to gain the interest of companies who may wish to try this manner of advertising and is hosted on its own "Viral Test" website. Potential advertisers are invited to test out the concept for free by having their company logo added at various places within the footage and then distributing the "personalised" version of the video "far and wide on the Internet".

Details about the makers of the video along with how to try out the concept test are available on the Viral Test website.

And, just for the record, there is no possible way that even a large helium filled gum bubble could lift an average size person. An article on the HowStuffWorks website calculates that it would take a whopping 4000 regular-sized helium-filled balloons to lift a 50 kilogram person.

Email Hoax: National Geographic's "The Photo of The Year" - - Reality of The Mail Showing Shark Attacking The Helicopter

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email that includes an image depicting a large shark jumping at a helicopter claims that the photograph was nominated by National Geographic as "The photo of the year".

In fact, the image is not a genuine photograph. Instead it is a combination of two entirely unrelated photographs. And the hoax image certainly was not nominated by National Geographic as "The photo of the year".

Before analyzing the reality behind this hoax mail; let's have a look to the mail contents:


Although this looks like a picture taken from a Hollywood movie, it is in fact a real photo, taken near the South African coast during a military exercise by the British Navy.

It has been nominated by National Geographic as "The photo of the year".


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This photograph supposedly depicts a very large shark leaping out of the water to attack a crew member suspended on a ladder beneath a Navy helicopter. However, the image is in fact a combination of two entirely unrelated photographs. Both the helicopter with dangling crew member and the breaching shark are real photographs, but they were not taken at the same time or at the same location.

Back in 2001, a prankster apparently created the composite image using two genuine photographs and it has been circulating sporadically ever since, along with a plausible cover story.

The photograph of the helicopter was taken by Lance Cheung during a military exercise in San Francisco and shows a HH-60G Pave Hawk US Air Force helicopter. The Golden Gate Bridge is clearly visible in the photograph's background. The prankster has reversed the original helicopter image to better suit his or her creation:

Image credit: Lance Cheung/US Air Force

The photograph of the leaping shark was taken by photographer Charles Maxwell in False Bay, South Africa. The same photograph can be seen on Charles Maxwell's website:

Image credit: Charles Maxwell

The description that accompanies the hoax picture claims that it was nominated by National Geographic as "The photo of the year". Of course, this claim is as fake as the image itself. In response, National Geographic published an article denying the "photo of the year" claim and debunking the hoax.

Although the image is a hoax, it is nevertheless a remarkable piece of work. Most likely, it will continue to circulate for years to come.

Email Hoax - - Reality of The Mail Containing The Information About Sterilization Pills 'Progesterex' and Date Rape Drug 'Rohypnol'

Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email claims that a sterilization pill called Progesterex is being mixed with the date rape drug Rohypnol to facilitate sexual assaults that leave the victim sterile.

In reality, the message is a long running hoax. There is no sterility drug called "Progesterex". There are no credible reports that indicate that the date rape drug Rohypnol is being mixed with other drugs that cause sterility.

First have a look to the contents the such similar mails spreading on the web:


Example 1:
For guys please take care of your Girlfriend.... Ladies, be more alert and cautious when getting a drink offer from guys.Good guys out there, please forward this message to your ladyfriends.
Boyfriends and husbands, take heed.

There is a new drug that has been out for less than a year - Progesterex, a sterilization pill, that is now being used by rapists at parties to rape AND sterilize their victims. Progesterex is available to vets to sterilize large animals. Rumor has it that the Progesterex is being used together with Rohypnol, the date rape drug. As with Rohypnol, all they have to do is drop it into the girl's drink. The next morning, the girl will not remember a thing that had taken place the night before. Progesterex, which dissolves in drinks just as easily, makes the victim unable to conceive from the rape, so the rapist needn't worry about having a paternity test identifying him months later.

The drug's effects AREN'T TEMPORARY. Progesterex is used to sterilize horses. Any female that takes it WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CONCEIVE. Anyone can get this drug from anyone who is in vet school. It's that easy, and Progesterex is about to break out big on campuses everywhere.

Believe it or not, there is even a site on the internet telling people how to use it. Please!

Example 2: *** PLEASE DO NOT DELETE THIS...****


Please advise your daughters and send to as many people, this is very tragic

A woman at the nightclub Cobar [NSW] on Saturday night was taken by 5 men, who according to hospital and police reports, gang raped her before dumping her. Unable to remember the events of the evening, tests later confirmed the repeat rapes along with traces of Rohypnol in her blood, with Progesterex, which is essentially a small sterilization pill. The drug now being used by rapists at parties to rape and sterilize their victims.

Progesterex is available to vets to sterilize large animals.

Rumor has it that Progesterex is being used together with Rohypnol, the date rape drug. As with Rohypnol, all they have to do is drop it into the girls drink. The girl can't remember a thing the next morning, of all that had taken place the night before. Progesterex, which dissolves in drinks just as easily, is such that the victim doesn't conceive from the rape and the rapist needn't worry about having a paternity test identifying him months later.

The drugs effects are not temporary- They are permanent! Progesterex was designed to sterilize horses. Any female who takes it will never be able to conceive. The bastards can get this drug from anyone who is in vet school or any university. It's that easy, and Progesterex is about to break out big every where. Believe it or not, there are even sites on the Internet telling people how to use it.

Please COPY this to everyone you know, especially girls. Be careful when you're out, and don't leave your drink unattended. Please make the effort to pass this onto all you know......Guys, please inform all your female friends and relatives. Girls, keep your drinks safe at all times, and men, look after the girls you're with.

Please pass this on to all your friends and family... Thank you


Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to this long running email "warning", rapists are now mixing a drug called "Progesterex" with the date-rape drug Rohypnol in order to sterilize their victims. Versions of the message have been circulating continuously since 1999. The message claims that rapists are using the drug in order to avoid possible detection via a paternity test if their victim falls pregnant.Supposedly, the effects of Progesterex are permanent and even one dose is enough to stop a female from ever conceiving a child. The email claims that Progesterex is a veterinary drug designed to sterilize horses.

However, there is no super sterility drug called Progesterex, either for human or veterinary use. Extensive research reveals no credible information about a drug called Progesterex. The warning has also been denounced by relevant organizations around the world.

The Australian Veterinary Association notes:
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) advises that an email circulating about a veterinary drug called "progesterex" being used in drink-spiking incidents is a hoax. The story has been perpetuated after being reported recently in some regional newspapers.

Dr Barry Smyth, President of Equine Veterinarians Australia, a special interest group of the AVA, said he has received a number of queries recently from members of the public concerned about drink-spiking incidents involving a drug which is supposedly used to sterilise horses.

"There is no such drug as progesterex and to our knowledge, there is no drug currently being used on horses for sterilisation," Dr Smyth said.
Pharmaceutical Journal online has also denied the existence of such a drug:
As a result of a bogus e-mail circulating since 1999, some pharmacists are receiving enquiries from customers about progesterex, described in the e-mail as a sterilisation drug used in cases of date rape.

Pharmacists should be aware that in searches of world wide medical databases and information resources the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has found no medicine (either for human or veterinary use) with either the brand or generic name of progesterex.
The perpetrator of this heinous hoax may have used the fictional name "Progesterex" because the name sounds similar to the name of the naturally occurring steroid hormone progesterone that is connected to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy in humans and other species. Veterinarians do sometimes administer progesterone to prevent mares from coming into heat. However, this treatment certainly does not cause permanent sterility and is not intended to do so. The hormone and other synthetically produced analogues also have a variety of medical applications in humans, none of which are designed to cause sterility.

Certainly, Rohypnol is a real drug that is indeed used to facilitate sexual assaults. However, there are no believable reports at all of Rohypnol being mixed with other drugs that cause sterility.

Drink spiking and date rape are very real problems, but forwarding this sort of hysterical nonsense will do nothing whatsoever to help. In fact, it may even add to the emotional trauma endured by a date-rape victim if she believes she may have been given Progesterex and is therefore permanently sterile.

If you receive this hoax, please do not spread it further by sending it to others. And please take a moment to let the sender know that the message contains dangerous misinformation and should not be forwarded.

Mail From So Called "Google Support" Asking for Account Details - - Gmail Account Phishing Scam

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email, purporting to be from Google Support, claims that the recipient will lose his or her Gmail account if he or she does not reply with the account's username and password and other personal information within seven days of receiving the message.

In fact, the message is not from Google. It is a phishing scam designed to steal the recipient's Gmail login details. If a recipient replies with the requested information, Internet scammers can then hijack the his or her Gmail account and use it for further criminal activities.

Let's have a look to the contents of the mail being sent to thousands of Gmail users:


From: Gmail Support
Subject: Your Gmail Account

Due to the congestion in our Gmail servers,there would be removal of all unused Gmail Accounts.You will have to confirm if your E-mail is still active by filling out your login info below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

Account name:
Country :

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his or her account within Seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.
Thank you for using Gmail !

The Gmail Team


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This email, which claims to be from "Google Support" warns the recipient that his or her Gmail account will be suspended within 24 hours "for security reasons" unless he or she confirms that the account is still active by replying to the email with account details. The message further warns that the account will be permanently deleted if the requested details are not received within seven days. The recipient is instructed to reply to the message with his or her Gmail username and password along with his or her date of birth and country of residence.

However, the email is not from Google and the claim that the recipient's Gmail account is about to be suspended is untrue. In fact, the message is a phishing scam designed to trick Gmail users into sending their account details to Internet criminals.

If a recipient falls for the trick and sends the requested details, the criminals behind the scam will then be able to hijack their victim's Gmail account and use it for their own nefarious purposes. Typically, these criminals use such hijacked accounts to launch further scams designed to trick contacts of the victim into sending them money. Once they have gained access to the hijacked account, the scammers will then send emails to all of the people on the account's contact list. These emails will falsely claim that the account holder is in a very difficult situation and desperately needs financial assistance. Usually, such emails claim that the account holder is stranded in another country without money or travel documents due to a robbery or lost baggage. The following is a typical example of such a scam letter:


How are you doing ? I hope you are doing fine, I'm sorry that I didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.I need a favor from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because I my wallet was stolen on my way to the hotel where my money, passport and other valuable things were kept. I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of $2,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, I will pay you back as soon as I return,I have trust on you,Please kindly let me know if you can be of help so I can send you my details to use when sending the money through Western Union Or Money Gram today, may god bless you and your family.

Any assistant you can offer will be greatly appreciated

regards [Name removed]
Because the message apparently comes from a person that the recipient knows, he or she may be more inclined to believe the story and send money as requested. Since the scam message originates from the victim's own account, it will have the his or her own name and email address in the sender field and may also include the his or her normal email signature.

Many people on the hijacked contact list will recognize the begging message as a scam because they are aware of such activities or because they know that the supposed sender is not travelling as claimed. However, even if only one or two people on the contact list fall for the ruse and send money as requested, the scammer will be well paid for his efforts. If a person does send money, the scammers may then attempt to trick him or her into sending further "emergency" loans. Of course, once they have gained as much money from their victim as possible, the criminals running the scam will simply disappear with the money.

Meanwhile, the original victim may not even be aware that his or her account has been hijacked, at least in the early stages of the scam. And, one of the first things they scammers will do when they have gained access to an account is to change the account's password, thereby locking the victim out of the compromised account. Thus, even after the victim realizes that the account has been hijacked, he or she may not be able to warn everyone on the contact list to watch out for scam messages sent from the compromised account.

Scammers have used similar tactics to steal account information from users of other popular email providers, including Yahoo, Hotmail and several others.

While some email service providers may have a policy of deactivating unused accounts, they certainly will not ask uses to "save" the account by replying with a username or password. Any message that asks you to send your email account username and password via an email is very likely to be a scam.

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