Spammers beg for money in pre-holiday blast

Latest spam campaign asks to help the less fortunate

A new spam campaign has emerged that tells stories of the hard-knock life, and then asks for money.

According to security vendor Marshal, this new spam blast -- timed conveniently to coincide with the beginning of the holiday season of giving -- uses few technical tricks, relying instead on social engineering. In these e-mails, the spammer tells woeful life stories and asks for donations of used clothing, blankets and money.

These are not the first spam campaigns to tell personal stories and ask for money; the popular Nigerian 419 scams have directly asked for, and often received, funds from e-mail recipients. Yet at this time of year when people tend to be particularly charitable, recipients may be more willing to donate, says a Marshal official.

"The Nigerian 419 scams prey on people's greed and gullibility to manipulate you into giving them money. This new scam takes a different approach by tugging on your heartstrings, but it is essentially the same idea -- they get people to believe in their story and send money," said Glen Meyers, an engineer at Marshal, in a prepared statement.

Besides good timing, these messages benefit from being better written and more convincing than most spam. Instead of asking directly for money, the spammer asks the recipient to "get in touch." The spammer apologizes for bothering recipients, saying that he found their e-mail addresses on the Internet, but doesn't specify where or how.

Marshal says it has found multiple examples of this holiday spam that vary slightly from each other.

This timely campaign comes just after last week's Halloween spam blast, backed by the malicious Storm worm.

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