Australian rescued after falling for internet scam

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

One would hope we in the media had published enough information on the dangers of stock spam and West African chain letters to make web surfers a tad skeptical when faced with a can't-lose proposition.

Then along comes Australian farmer Des Gregor. According to the Associated Press, Gregor, 53, was held hostage for 12 days in Mali after men posing as an online love interest enticed Gregor to come to the African nation with the promise of marriage and an $85,000 US dowry, where he was kidnapped.

According to the Associated Press:

Gregor, who returned to his home state of South Australia with a police escort late Sunday, said the men told him they would hack his limbs off with a machete unless he paid them a $85,000 US ransom. The scam was stopped when Australian and Malian police, alerted by Gregor's family in Australia, tricked the kidnappers into taking Gregor to the Canadian Embassy to collect the ransom money.

While Gregor's gullibility might be easy to mock (the kidnapper evidently offered the dowry in gold bars), the truth is spam, phishing and chain letters keep popping up on computers because they work: a 2006 study by researchers at Purdue in the U.S. and Oxford in the UK found enough recipients are acting on spam emails to consistently put spammers in the black. In other words, there are many Des Gregors around the world buying into the same loopy scenarios.

As Gregor told the AP: "Just be careful - make sure you check everything out 100 per cent."