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This article was published on May 19, 2009

Nigerian scammers are breaking into Gmail accounts and attempting to swindle money from friends.

Nigerian scammers are breaking into Gmail accounts and attempting to swindle money from friends.
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

gmailScammers (and yes they are predominantly Nigerian) are accessing GMail accounts and emailing friends of yours requesting money.

This has actually happened to a good friend of mine just last week who received an email from a friend in her contacts list, but the content of the email was stereotypical of a “you have $10000 waiting for you” – clearly not actually from the actual friend.

Consumer affairs blog, The Consumerist, notes another example, this time the scammer actually used GTalk to impersonate someone’s friend.

“Andy logged in to Gmail on Sunday, and his friend Jeff started to chat with him. Things seemed a bit off, but Andy really became suspicious when Jeff asked him to wire $500 to an injured friend in Nigeria.”

This is the chat transcript of the conversation, and  although amusing, it is in fact rather scary in my opinion. Thankfully Scammer!Jeff gives away a number of obvious signs that he is not in fact the real Jeff, but how long before these scammers (and hackers) become cleverer.

Scammer!Jeff: hello
Andy:: gmornin
Scammer!Jeff: good morning
Scammer!Jeff: how was ur night
Andy:: decent. we had a graduation party for maggie
Andy:: (grad school)
Scammer!Jeff: cool
Scammer!Jeff: wqhen was that
Andy:: it was yesterday (she didn’t walk, we had the party instead)
Scammer!Jeff: ok
Scammer!Jeff: where are you now
Andy:: home
Andy:: playing with Oscar
Scammer!Jeff: oh that nice
Scammer!Jeff: can you help me for just a little things right now
Andy:: ok
Scammer!Jeff: you will help me send 500$ to a friend of mine who his son has an accident in Nigeria ..
Andy:: hahaha
Scammer!Jeff: and its was so very urgent i dont mind given you back with interest
Scammer!Jeff: not funny
Andy:: what’s not funny
Scammer!Jeff: i thought you are laughning about what i said
Scammer!Jeff: will you go out and help me right now and send money to him ….. by money gramm
Scammer!Jeff: its very urgenmt
Andy:: its a line from your favorite movie. Aliens 5, remember (I was trying to test him here, not very original, but I wanted to be complete obvious, just incase my buddy Jeff was just hungover or something)
Andy:: maybe you don’t remember???
Andy:: how was your friend’s son hurt?
Scammer!Jeff: yes i dont
Scammer!Jeff: on his ways to airport . cause he study at UK
Scammer!Jeff: so he got an accident
Andy:: that’s terrible!
Andy:: how can I help? (Now I realize it truly is an interloper, and not the real Jeff being goofy, so I play along)
Scammer!Jeff: now they need money there to buy ticket so he can be transfer to Uk and he can take a proper care over there than Nigeria … so i need you help me send him 500$
Andy:: actually I have a shitload of band-aids and morphine. I could send that instead
Scammer!Jeff: you send the money through money gramm
Andy:: what about paypal
Andy:: or
Andy:: that is the fastest way to send money
Andy:: once I deposit the funds, you can print it out of any color printer
Andy:: and its real mney!
Actual!Jeff: Andy? ya here? (This is where my real buddy Jeff chimes in)
Actual!Jeff: Someone is talkin as if they were me?!!!
Actual!Jeff: WTF
Actual!Jeff: this is scary man. Just yesterday someone hacked my PayPal
Actual!Jeff: now someone is talking in Gmail as ME
Andy:: yeah dude
Andy:: I can send you the transcript
Actual!Jeff: Im seeing it
Actual!Jeff: fucked up
Andy:: i had heard of this on Facebook, but not through gmail
Actual!Jeff: yeah like I saw words coming up from ME just now, but Im playing a damn game
Andy:: unless you’re pretending to be Jeff, and you still want my money
Actual!Jeff: no this is the real Jeff
Actual!Jeff: now anyways
Actual!Jeff: what should I do>
Andy:: tell me who is the 44th president of the united states
Actual!Jeff: oh jeez hell if I know. Try another toy related question
Scammer!Jeff: am not at home (This is obviously the hacker again)
Scammer!Jeff: i told you
Andy:: oooh I love paypal
Scammer!Jeff: okay will is better
Scammer!Jeff: i will ask them if they can accept paypal insted of money gramm
Scammer!Jeff: that is better
Andy:: hoooray
Andy:: hooray for paypal
Andy:: hooray for your friend’s son
Andy:: may he get laid soon
Actual!Jeff: dude whoever is preytendingto be me, fuck off
Andy:: so where do I put the money? This is the first time I’ve used paypal
Andy:: do I put it in the disk drive
Scammer!Jeff: i will send you the paypal when i got it from the friend
Scammer!Jeff: so you can send the money through paypal

What can be done about it?

Frankly, not much aside from frequently changing your gmail password, enabling https in settings and checking your sent items and chat logs on a frequent basis. If you suspect it may be happening to you, possibly an email to your contacts advising them of the situation may be an option.