It looks ever more likely that 2009 could indeed be the year of the scam.

Symantec owned MessageLabs is warning that cases of advance fee 419 fraud, along with other financial scams, have spiked as we enter 2009. From December 22nd 2008, through into January 2009, the number of scams detected by MessageLabs more than doubled. The numbers show that this kind of fraud has increased from 4.2 percent to 10.2 percent during the period. That compares to just 3.1 percent during the same time last year.

But that is just the start of it, according to MessageLabs which predicts that 419 scams will start switching tactic from the traditional elaborate prose, which can often be highly amusing courtesy of a poor grasp of the English language. Instead, we are told to expect the scammers to switch to a much simpler message which tries to force the user into replying in order to learn about the so-called business opportunity.

"The new year means new opportunities for spammers," said Paul Wood, Senior Analyst, MessageLabs. "As the economic climate continues to be frosty and the inability to secure credit through official channels remains spammers are tempted by the possibility that consumers facing uncertain futures may be more tempted by some of these hard-to-resist offers."