I have been selected for a prestigious honor by the United Nations.
This morning as I was opening my email, Laurie Vongunten wrote: "You have been choosen By the Board of trustees of the UNITED NATIONS as a winner of $500,000.00. being awarded to you on Monday 06, April, 2009. Contact Dr. Henry Mccartney on email address below to claim your grant."
Sadly, Ms. Vongunten is a hoax.
As someone who has worked with security organizations through the years, I recognized the classic qualities of your basic email scam. First, I don't know her. Second, if it really was a half a million dollars in a grant given to me, I would have had to apply for it. And, I am guessing that the U.N. Board of Trustees, if there was such an organization, would have personally called me with the news that I won 500,000 simoleans.
There were other clues of course. Ms. Vongunten used the "akronlibrary.org" as part of her email address. And, the kicker was that I had to respond to a Microsoft Hotmail account to get my money. Sadly, the deadline to respond was April 6.
It's amazing to me how Ms. Vongunten got my email address as I avoid using my real one to sign up for things. Even on press releases, I use the term (at) to symbolize the "@" that connects my name. As Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, told me years ago, there are people who are mining everyone's email address to try to involve them in scams like this. If you want to keep your email box free of these distractions, you should also avoid putting them on entry forms for the free car giveaways or the $1000 HEB gift card you see at fairs and other public venues.
More importantly, it's a good idea to help your elderly parents recognize a scam and to not respond. I am guessing that Ms. Vongunten would want to send those who respond a nasty computer virus. I can only imagine the troubles that would cause my mother, who is a longtime computer surfer.
So, Ms. Vongunten, I am on to you. I am hoping that others will send this blog to their friends so that you won't victimize people like my mother or my wife's elderly brother. By using the collective power of social media channels, we can truly impact the progress of your devious intents.