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Sophos: Consumers targeted with false offer of M&S vouchers

October 2008 by Sophos

IT security and control firm Sophos is warning computer users to be wary of a hoax email which falsely promises up to £500 in Marks & Spencers vouchers. The email chain letter, first seen in the summer of 2007, has generated ten times the usual number of queries to the Sophos website in the past two weeks.

Sophos experts claim that the authors of nuisance emails will often target unsuspecting email users with messages designed to exploit real-world situations. Claiming to come from Marks & Spencer, a retailer famed for its offers and promotions, this hoax may appeal to consumers feeling the pinch and seeking the best bargains to alleviate financial concerns - but they are advised to exercise skepticism when checking their inboxes.

“Hoax emails are a real nuisance,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “Shoppers are more eager than ever to seek out the best bargains online, but unfortunately this one is too good to be true – I’m afraid all anyone who replies to this email will receive is disappointment. Email users should always search the web to see if an enticing offer is real or phoney before sending it on to their friends.”

The text of a typical hoax email reads as follows:

Dear all,

Marks & Spencers, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away free vouchers. Marks & Spencers are trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its products and the reward you receive for advertising for them is free non-refundable vouchers to be used in any M&S store.

To receive your free vouchers by e-mail all you have to do is to send this email out to 8 people (for £100 of free vouchers) or 20 people (for £500 of free vouchers). Within 2 weeks you will receive an e-mail with your vouchers attached.

They will contact you through your e-mail address. Please mark a copy to:

"Another victim of this particular hoax is Persimmon Homes," continued Cluley. "By encouraging those who respond to copy the firm in, this could potentially overload the company’s inbox. The best advice when you see any emails like this is to delete them straight away."

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