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updated 5/18/2012 1:50:30 PM ET 2012-05-18T17:50:30

Facebook and the promise of billions of dollars — these are the two main ingredients in a new Nigerian online fraud scam leveraging Facebook's closely followed and highly anticipated initial public offering as bait.

On the heels of today's (May 18) Facebook's IPO, the scam comes via an email titled, "Facebook (IPO) Subscription Partnership Program." According to the Symantec researchers  who spotted the bogus email, the scammers ask recipients to join an investment partnership "in the quest to mop up huge valuable amount of shares" from Facebook.

The email claims to be from a United Kingdom financial firm with offices in London, Hong Kong and Dubai. In a message full of convoluted language and questionable financial figures, the author promises a huge return on your investment, especially if you buy more than 1 million shares at the upfront fee of $38 per share.

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As Symantec pointed out, this email has all the hallmarks of a traditional Nigerian "419" scam, the name given to phishing emails that ask for an advance fee to process a huge —but nonexistent — fortune, often promised by a deceased relative or a Nigerian prince.

Symantec discovered that the phone number listed by the supposedly U.K. firm is actually an answering service based in Sacramento, Calif. Another dead giveaway that it's fraudulent is the sender's email address, an "amateurish-looking address at a common free Web-based email provider."

"A legitimate company would almost certainly use an email address at its own domain, rather than using a free Web-based address," Symantec wrote. In addition, the email address listed in the "From" header is different from the one listed in the body of the message.

As with any major news story that draws the world's attention, Facebook's monumental IPO  is sure to provide cybercrooks with plenty of fodder.

"Given the high profile nature of this IPO, we expect scammers to continue to take advantage of it in much the same way that they have taken advantage of previous news stories and event," Symantec said.

A basic rule of thumb for Internet use: Never hand over any money unless you're positive where it's going. If you receive an email promising an "investment opportunity" or a shot at millions of dollars in exchange for a fee, you should absolutely always ignore it.  In the real world, you would never trust someone who promises a ludicrous moneymaking scheme like this, so you shouldn't suspend your suspicion when you come across the same scam online.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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