Computer fraud is an everyday issue. We are becoming accustomed to hearing on the news about criminal groups that clone credit cards, hack mail accounts, bank accounts, etc.

Most of these scams are carried out withour the user’s knowledge. The process is transparent until the scam is complete. However, in the case of phishing, users knowingly send their bank details to an email address (or website), and therefore have an active role in the scam.

Despite the best efforts of banks to warn users about these risks, victims still fall into the same traps. Today however, I would like to talk about another scam we have encountered on the Internet. It’s a traditional scam adapted to use a combination of new technologies to defraud users.

Ever heard of the pigeon drop scam before? Basically, it involves convincing a victim or ‘pigeon’ to give up a sum of money in order to obtain a larger sum of money. The result however is that the scammers end up with all the money.

There are many variations, but typically, the victim is presented with the chance by one of the scammers -who will often appear to be extremely naïve or stupid- to get a large sum of money (or valuable object) in exchange for a much smaller amount. A stranger (in reality, one of the scammers) will invariably appear, encouraging the victim to seize this ‘opportunity’. The victim hands over his money in exchange for the bag or envelope containing his sudden windfall, which, as the bag has been switched, turns out to be strips of newspaper or other worthless material. By this time the scammers have made off with the victim’s money, and the ‘pigeon’ will rarely report the crime through guilt or shame.

As innovation is all the rage among the criminal fraternity, we now have a technological version of this traditional scam. A user receives an email explaining how easy it is to become a hacker and get hold of a list of credit card numbers which can then be used to buy things online, transfer money out of people’s accounts, etc.

To access the list, the user simply has to forward his own credit card details to the sender of the email, who is –needless to say- the real hacker. The hacker will then be able to use the credit card for whatever he wants. The scammed user will not know how to explain it to the authorities, as on the one hand, he has given out his details voluntarily, and on the other, he did so to steal from other users.

What do you think about this scam? Do you think those who attempt to scam others deserve what they get?