Intelligence unit warns e-mail scams increasing
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Criminals increasingly are targeting the Army with scam e-mails and virus-filled file attachments, according to a 5th Signal Command official.
“We have seen an increase of specific targeting toward military members by talking about subjects that are of interest to them,” Robert Hembrook, deputy chief of intelligence for the Germany-based 5th Signal Command said Monday.
For example, e-mails will contain messages about the military in their subject fields or attached files will have military jargon in their names, “… something that will catch a soldier’s eye,” Hembrook said.
One scam e-mail intercepted by 5th Signal Command had a subject field that read: “information about an upcoming exercise” while another read: “you need to know this before you go downrange.”
In addition, military e-mail account holders often receive “Nigerian scam” e-mails that seem to offer recipients the chance to gain millions of dollars, Hembrook said.
“The Nigerian scam goes back to paper letter days before the Internet. It is a confidence trick where they give you a sob story about money trapped in their father’s account and he’s been killed by the Nigerian government and all you have to do is send them your bank account information so they can transfer the money out of the country,” Hembrook explained.
The e-mailer claims they will take the money out of the account at a later date and pay you a percentage for helping them, he said.
“Then they use your account information to withdraw all your money and leave you broke,” he said.
A recent Nigerian scam e-mail addressed to military accounts claims to be from a soldier in Iraq named Sgt. Mark P. Adams who needs to move $25 million in Iraqi oil money out of the country. In exchange for help, he offers the recipient 40 percent of the loot. Those who respond get a second e-mail that asks personal questions such as the recipient’s job, family status and proof of identity.
Hembrook said he knew of no soldiers who have fallen for such a scam but added that it is almost certain somebody has been duped.
“It is very threatening to us because of course soldiers are interested in these subjects and want to do something to help but then they realize too late that they have been scammed,” he said.
E-mail scammers can buy government e-mail address lists on the black-market or compile their own by surfing government Web sites for names, he said.
Hembrook would not say much about the people who are behind the scam e-mails and viruses but added: “Given the reliance we have on our computer networks, anybody who wants to do damage to us is probably thinking in this direction.”
What is the Army doing about the problem?
Maj. Robert Hemmer, USAREUR information assurance program manager, would say only that his office attempts to ensure compliance among users on network security issues.
Hembrook said the Army is aware of the problem and the Department of Defense is attempting to educate government computer users about it.
“The threat of these things is very real and very common. People are able to send to military DOD e-mail accounts all the time hoping to catch one unaware person, because it only takes one,” he said.