Secret Service warns of Afghanistan email scam

The US Secret Service warns there is a new email scam circulating around the web to join the already famous Nigerian government official scam.

          The US Secret Service warns there is a new email scam circulating around the web to join the already famous Nigerian government official scam.

          The new scam comes from someone claiming to be a US soldier in Afghanistan who has come across a large amount of illicit drug money and needs help getting the cash out of the country. He is willing to share the haul with anyone who is willing to provide him with a bank account number to help him speed up the transaction.

          It is a con, of course, and a variation on all of the email scams that make their way into in-boxes around the world.

          "Number one, do not respond," says Marc Connolly, Secret Service special agent in Washington. "Two, please forward them to either your local Secret Service office or to Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC."

          The Secret Service is interested in any information the public can provide, Connolly says. Thousands of examples of the scams come in and are put in a database that allows agents to track trends, he says.

          Connolly isn't surprised that the scam has been adopted to take advantage of the US war in Afghanistan. These types of scams, known as 419 scams or advance money scams, often wrap themselves around current events to seem more relevant, he said. The scams are called 419 because that is the section of Nigerian law that refers to them.

          While the Secret Service is aware of the latest incarnation of the scam, Connolly says he doesn't know if there was an active investigation into finding those behind it.

          But, the Secret Service is interested in breaking up the gangs that perpetrate these scams and have agents in several overseas offices, including a new office in Lagos, Nigeria, dedicated to catching the scammers, Connolly says.

          Recently, police in South Africa arrested six men -- four from Nigeria, one from Cameroon and one from South Africa -- in connection with an email fraud operation.

          The six men allegedly were part of a gang that sent out thousands of emails soliciting money from unsuspecting recipients. Connolly says Secret Service agents in Pretoria, South Africa, were working with local authorities in connection with the arrests but he had no details.

          "Obviously this scam is international in scope," Connolly says.

          To head it off, international law enforcement agencies have to cooperate because a majority of the emails originate from overseas, he said.

          Connolly says a good rule of thumb to follow when receiving such emails is: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

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