The messages claims that recipients have been chosen for a $1.7 million prize and a brand new VW car. The emails say the user has been randomly chosen from more than 250,000 email addresses around the world. It then urges recipients not to tell anyone else of their win, but to quickly contact a prize transfer agent for further instructions. A phone number and email address is given for people to contact.
Sophos researchers said the emails are a variant of the commonly-encountered "Letter from Nigeria" scams, also known as 419 Advanced Fee Fraud, which fool innocent users into believing that a large amount of money will be transferred into their bank account but are really designed to steal information about the user's bank account or demand a "handling fee" for the money transfer.
"This email scam campaign has stolen the name of one of the world's most famous car companies in its attempt to steal people's money and identities. Unfortunately, rather than driving off into the sunset with a wad of cash on the passenger seat, computer users who fall for this trick risk handing confidential details about themselves into the hands of fraudsters," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Anyone who responds to these emails will never collect their prize money, or find a brand new VW car sitting on their driveway."