Microsoft, Yahoo Form Alliance to Tackle Lottery Scams

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Microsoft and Yahoo have formed a group with two other partners to give law enforcement a hand in stopping bogus lottery scams and educating Internet surfers.

Microsoft and Yahoo have seen increasing amounts of e-mail using their brand names to convince unwitting users they've won a lottery. The scammers then instruct victims to pay fees in order to collect their winnings, a scam known as advance fee fraud.

Joining those companies is the African Development Bank, whose brand is also abused, and Western Union, whose wire transfer services are frequently used in the scams.

The companies are undertaking an interesting plan to help law enforcement given that most advance fee fraud scams are never investigated and local police often have limited resources and expertise.

People who have been scammed should report the crime to their local police authority. Then, the four companies would like people to send them the police reports by e-mail or post. Their internal investigators will look for patterns and other data and pass it along to police. The international law enforcement agency Interpol will also work with countries to help coordinate the program.

Indicators show that a relatively small number of gangs are responsible for administering the scams, said Roger Halbheer, Microsoft's chief security advisor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The scams are cheap to run, since they often send e-mail through free services. They're also quite lucrative, he said.

Microsoft conducted a recent survey of 4,930 Internet users in Germany, the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark. The survey found 113 people had lost from €100 ($123) up to €7,000 to an Internet scammer in the last 12 months. Put another way, one in 44 people had been scammed.

Someone running a direct mail campaign would probably be "manager of the year if you had that kind of return," Halbheer said.

People are encouraged to send their police report to the following addresses:

African Development Bank

E-mail: or by post to

African Development Bank

Security Unit

BP 323 1002

Tunis Belvedere,



E-mail: or by post to

Report Lottery Fraud

Microsoft Corp

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA 98052-6399


Western Union



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