Most Internet users have probably seen e-mail scams that include promises of large amounts of money in return for a small initial payment. This is called advanced fee fraud, and every year, victims lose money to this scam and often inadvertently turn their personal information over to cybercriminals.

The MSN Auto Protection scam is a type of advanced fee fraud that cybercriminals use on auto buying Web sites like MSN Autos. Here’s how it works:

The cybercriminal offers a car for sale (often at a very low price) and when a buyer makes contact, the cybercriminal offers to sell the car using an escrow or third-party payment service such as “MSN Auto Protection Plan” or “MSN Money.” The cybercriminal claims that these services protect buyers because the payment for the car is held safely until the car is delivered. The problem is that there is no “MSN Auto Protection Plan” and MSN Money is not a third-party payment service.

Note: Third-party payment services (such as PayPal) do exist. For more information, see How to use third-party payment services.

The cybercriminal then sends a spoofed e-mail message to the buyer that appears to come from MSN. The buyer sends a payment, but never receives the car. Like the Microsoft Lottery scam and other scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently, cybercriminals use the Microsoft logo and even copy language that you might see in genuine Microsoft e-mail messages.

To read more about how this scam works in the United Kingdom, see Warning: MSN Cars Vehicle Purchase Protection Program FRAUD.

To learn how to protect yourself from other types of fraud, see:

·         Reduce the risk of online fraud

·         How to recognize phishing e-mails or links

·         Phishing scams that target activities, interests or news events

·         How to recognize spoofed Web sites