Coalition attempts a crackdown on lottery spammers

by Michael Smith

What generally increases when the overall economy declines? That’s right – crime. And these days, when you receive an email that proclaims that you’ve won the “Yahoo! Lottery,” the financially-pressured optimist in you might be more inclined to bite the bait.

Let's face it. If you have not actually entered a lottery of any sorts then the chances that you are a winner are very, very slim indeed, In fact they are nil. Period!

Last May, Yahoo filed a lawsuit against “Yahoo! Lottery” spammers who use the Yahoo brand to trick unsuspecting users into handing over personal data to claim a prize. While progress is being made on catching those scammers, there is concern that they may step up efforts to dupe people impacted by these tough times.

Aside from those scams which, in my opinion, should be easy to spot (see my message above), there are those message that purport to some from one's bank or building society, requesting one update this or that or whatever. Banks will not, in general, ever use the email channel for such communications and therefore the user can be assured that 99.99% of any such messages are not from the user's bank.

I have gotten emails from the United Farmers Bank, for instance, and, seeing that I am in the UK it is hardly possible for me to be a customer of this bank from the Midwest, so I believe, in the USA.

Recently Yahoo announced a public-private coalition with Microsoft, the African Development Bank, and Western Union to allow victims of lottery scams to upload police reports that Yahoo (and other such services) can use with the goal of tracking down these devious criminals and developing better ways of protecting people online. INTERPOL has gotten involved to inform international law enforcement agencies about the initiative and provide guidance on critical information to collect to identify trends and common patterns.

Yahoo! and the other coalition members have set up dedicated email addresses and Web sites (Yahoo's website for this is: where lottery scam victims – those who took the bait and handed over personal information – can share details of the police report they have filed. These reports may be helpful to other coalition members and law enforcement in fighting lottery scammers.

For readers who spot a scam but don’t fall for it, Yahoo has tips as well. First off, don’t ever reply to the message, even as a joke. Some people do and have done but... Firstly you do not want to be encouraging those people – if one can call them people. Instead, if a Yahoo mail user, click the “Spam” button, which helps Yahoo and their anti-spam systems block these types of messages and kick these criminals off the Internet. In addition to that replying to any such message, even in jest, identifies to the “spammers” that yours is an active email account and instead of stopping they will increase their activity, targeting your account.

A little reminder, if it be needed: no one ever wins the Yahoo! Lottery. The reason for this is simple. There simply is no Yahoo! Lottery. The same holds true for any MSN Lottery and any such.

As I have said above: if you have not actually directly entered a lottery or sweepstake, then the chances for a win are simply nil.

You may also rest assured that you are not the beneficiary of some millions that some aunt you never knew you had or some Nigerian woman who died has bequeathed to you. Also, if that be the case, why would the supposed lawyer request details such as your name, address, sex, etc. that, if you really are the beneficiary, he should already know. Also, you can rest assured that no legal officer uses emails for such kind of business. Why not? Because email is not considered a secure means of operating.

While the economy may be down, still be wary of any unexpected lottery win or the approach by anyone who offers you millions that he has found lying about somewhere unclaimed in an account or such.

Let's enjoy the benefits of the Net but let's also be aware that there are dangers out there. Do not make yourself a victim.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008