Microsoft, Yahoo!, Western Union and African Development Bank Announce Coalition to Combat Internet Lottery Scams
New research shows one in 44 Internet users have lost money to Internet fraud in the last 12 months
WIESBADEN, Germany. — Oct. 28, 2008 — Microsoft, Yahoo!, Western Union and The African Development Bank today announced the formation of a coalition to raise global awareness amongst consumers of the threat posed by lottery hoax emails. Through this collaborative effort, the coalition members will educate Internet users so they are better able to protect themselves against fraudulent activities online.
Internet lottery scams are a common form of Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), a crime in which the victim is deceived into paying money upfront to receive a fictitious gift or cash prize. Law enforcement officials have expressed concern that scammers will step up their activity to take advantage of people concerned with or affected by the global economic downturn.
Speaking at the 6th German Anti Spam Summit, Tim Cranton, associate general counsel, Worldwide Internet Safety Programs at Microsoft said: "This online threat differs from those that try to exploit software code or attack computers. Lottery scammers prey not on software, but on the hope of their victims – and with scams that can be so creative and plausible, Internet users simply don’t know who they can believe. Microsoft is announcing this coalition with the African Development Bank, Western Union and Yahoo! today with the goal of helping better ensure end-to-end trust in the Internet for everyone."
"As one of the world’s largest Web mail providers, reaching hundreds of millions of Internet users, we realize that Yahoo! is in a unique position to help educate consumers about dangerous scams online, and we have a special responsibility to help provide a safe online experience," said George Hadjigeorgiou, general manager of communication and community products, Yahoo! Europe. "At Yahoo!, we’ve long told our users that if it sounds ‘too good to be true,’ it probably is. But as Internet fraudsters continue to get more creative in their approaches, consumers continue to be deceived. This unique initiative is a continuation of our online safety and trust initiatives and is intended to help support our consumer awareness efforts."
The announcement of the Internet lottery scam coalition coincides with the release of independent research commissioned by Microsoft into consumer experiences of lottery scams in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and Denmark. Of 4,930 people interviewed, 113 people – or one in 44 – said they had lost money to an Internet fraudster in the last 12 months, with individual losses ranging from less than Euros 100 to more than Euros 7,000.
The research also shows that:
- 27 percent of Internet users surveyed thought it likely they would become a victim of an Internet lottery scam that would cost them money;
- More than half (51 percent) said that lottery scam emails made them less reluctant to buy goods from the Internet; and
- 36 percent said they were more reluctant to use the Internet as a result of Internet scams.
"It’s a common perception that only naive and extremely gullible people fall victim to lottery scams. However, it can happen to anyone, especially those who are experiencing financial pressure," said Christopher Fischer, senior counsel EMEASA, Western Union Financial Services. "Our goal is to help consumers protect themselves by helping them understand how our service operates and how Internet lottery scams work. For example, we advise all consumers never to send money to a stranger using cash-to-cash money transfer services. Evidence shows that consumers themselves are the first, last and best line of defense against fraud. Consumers that are educated, well informed and skeptical are better able to protect themselves and their hard earned money."
Lottery scammers often misappropriate or misrepresent established and credible brands to add authenticity to their hoaxes. The huge volume of emails they send coupled with the fact that their use of the Internet enables them to transcend national borders makes it hard to understand the true scope and range of their activities.
To address this, victims of lottery scams that involve any of the coalition companies’ brands or services can report their experience to their local police authority. INTERPOL has communicated with national law enforcement agencies to inform them of the initiative and provide guidance on critical information to collect.
Victims will be told about the coalition by local police authorities and invited to send a copy of the police crime report to the relevant coalition company member. Each company can then apply its own in-house investigative expertise in an effort to identify trends and common patterns, such as multiple scams emanating from the same geography.
"All four companies share a common interest in addressing cyber crime and online scams," said William Godbout, chief security officer, at African Development Bank. "There has been an exponential increase in the volume of online criminal activity using our trademark. Although there is no financial loss to the Bank, these crimes impact our reputation and image. The reputation of African banking, of African development institutions and of the African continent in general are significantly jeopardized by the explosion in cyber crime falsely using African entities. With the assistance of our partners, in conjunction with both international authorities and local African law enforcement organizations, we will prosecute this criminal activity to the greatest extent possible."
Victims of lottery scams can report cases by sending their police crime reports to the following dedicated and secure addresses:
African Development Bank:
African Development Bank
BP 323 1002
Report Lottery Fraud
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
About African Development Bank
The African Development Bank is Africa’s premier development finance institution dedicated to combating poverty and improving the lives of people of the continent and engaged in the task of mobilizing resources for the economic and social development of its Regional Member Countries.
The Bank Group’s primary objective is to promote sustainable growth to reduce poverty by financing projects and programmes in the RMCs through loans, equity investments and technical assistance.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.
About Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)
Microsoft has operated in EMEA since 1982. In the region Microsoft employs more than 16,000 people in over 64 subsidiaries, delivering products and services in more than 139 countries and territories.
About Western Union
The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global money transfer services. Together with its affiliates, Orlandi Valuta and Vigo, Western Union provides consumers with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, as well as send payments and purchase money orders. It operates through a network of more than 365,000 Agent locations in over 200 countries and territories. Famous for its pioneering telegraph services, the original Western Union dates back to 1851. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.
Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. Yahoo! is focused on powering its communities of users, advertisers, publishers, and developers by creating indispensable experiences built on trust. Yahoo! Inc. is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. For more information, visit pressroom.yahoo.com or the company’s blog, Yodel Anecdotal.
This material is for informational purposes only. The coalition members disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to use of the material for other purposes. No coalition member shall at any time, be liable for any special, direct, indirect or consequential damages, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of the material. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting any kind of warranty.
Coalition member PR contacts:
African Development Bank PR Contacts
Phone: +216 7110 2244
Microsoft PR Contacts
Linda Vo or Isabel Richter
Phone: +44 20 7632 3800
EMEA Response Centre
Western Union PR Contacts
Phone: +43 1 50134 550
Mobile: +43 (0) 66 42149078
Yahoo! PR Contacts
Lucy Freeborn, Yahoo! Inc. (Europe)
Phone: +44 020 7131 1810
Jenny Jack, Outcast Communications for Yahoo! Inc. (US)