The emails claim to be from an accountant who has found a bank account containing $41 million from one of the disaster's victims, Christian Eich. The scammer states that unless claimed by the end of the quarter, the money will be used to buy weapons.
Eich, a 57-year-old worker for BMW, died along with his wife and two children in the Air France Flight 4590 crash at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000.
The email - which links to news reports concerning Eich's death to give the scam more credibility - urged recipients to respond quickly so that a quarter of the money can be transferred. However, recipients have been warned that this is likely to lead to a request for personal details or an advance payment. Such information can then be used to steal money from bank accounts and commit identity fraud.
"Eich and his family were genuine victims of the terrible air crash in Paris. Sick criminals are deliberately using their names in an attempt to steal from others, without a thought for the feelings of their friends and relatives," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Everyone should be wary of emails that offer an unexpected fortune, as it's a trick commonly used by fraudsters to steal money and bank details."
This email con-trick is one of the latest 419 scams - unsolicited emails in which the author offers money to draw a victim in, then requests private information for identity or financial theft. Other 419 scams include faux messages from a persecuted widow of the late Nigerian head of state, an associate of the massacred Nepalese royal family and an African astronaut stranded on the Mir space station.