Scammers’ confab invitation displays sophistication

The Internet scamsters have graduated from transparent claims of free money to a more sophisticated environmental effort that includes a classy Web page.

The latest attempt to tap the purses of the naive is the Climate Change International Conference 2012. The purported conference is making the rounds in an email invitation that is showing up in some Costa Rican inboxes. The invitation seeks an abstract of an academic paper on global warming, invokes the name of the U.N. Climate Change Conference and promises an all-expense paid trip to London for qualified applicants from developing countries.

Says the email:

“CCIC 2012 themed ‘Impacts of Climate Change on the Environment’ Global Warming Policy and Markets will provide a platform to discuss the future opportunities and challenges related to the design, development and commercialization of low carbon innovation, technologies, products and services. The event will be a unique learning experience, networking space and an opportunity to think. Delegates will come globally from companies, entrepreneurs, as well as academia, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The conference is supported by an international Advisory Board.”

The invitation comes from conference chairman Dr. Oscar Brandon, who seems to have the same telephone number as one used by a Mrs. Wilcox in an earlier email scam and has the same address as a London clothing shop, according to an online directory.

Presumably this environmental scam will generate certain fees and up-front cases for those who apply. Of course, the amount will not be anywhere near the $535 million the Obama administration lavished on the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. But the approach is the same: Align your efforts with an environmental cause.

There is a temptation to call these scammers Nigerians because that country has a record of Internet abuse, and the use of London telephone numbers that are automatically forwarded to another country, like Dr. Brandon’s +44-702-405-7717. However, many countries, including the United States, host Internet scammers.

The sophistication is way above the technique of simply buying the back page of The Tico Times with a stolen credit card last August to offer imaginary electronic ware. This time the scammers have a Web page, even though a check of Internet records shows the domain was purchased April 18. The domain ownership is held in private by a firm in the U.S. State of Washington. That firm may be an accomplice. A similar email from 2011 uses an Eastern European Cyrillic character set.

A check of the Internet shows that the 2012 climate change conference invitation has been making the rounds since last December. There was a similar scam promoting a 2011 conference, according to an Internet search. The 2011 conference announcement said it was supported by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and William J. Clinton Foundation and featured a photo of both men.

Mrs. Wilcox, who has the same telephone number as Dr. Brandon, is one of those widows ready to send off vast sums of money to complete strangers, according to her email that circulated as late as last December.

The genius of this new appeal, in addition to the Web page, is that victims are asked to create an abstract of an academic paper suitable for delivery at the mythical conference. The email promises a peer review process to pick the best papers for delivery. They are brought into the scammer’s web step by step.

The scam busting Web site Scamorama,com has a list of fake conferences that have been the subject of email frauds.

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