Scams are as old as human interaction. I can only assume that among the first hunter-gatherer people wandering this great globe there were some who quickly discovered that if they used certain diversionary or distracting tactics or played the Needy card even when they’d just been gnawing on a good fat hunk of food, some softhearted other would hand over his or her hard-earned goodies. The more purportedly sentient and sophisticated we get, the more elaborate the flimflam. Bamboozling and outright fraud and thievery are well honed skills among those so inclined. And we who live in Bloglandia know better than most what rich tillage is available for such nefarious labors if the tricksters and crooks are even the least bit techno-savvy.
As a blogger I am the not so proud owner of a spam filter that scoops up as many as several dozen phishing and monetary theft attempts in any single day. One of the aspects that makes me especially irritated is the irksome knowledge that unlike promotional and advertising spam–tiresome enough–scam emails offer no possible way for me to Unsubscribe from their persistent and pernicious pestering. If I should be so foolish as to respond with an angry Unsubscribe letter of my own, and yes, of course I’ve done it just to let off steam, odds are astronomically against there being a human at the other end of the equation rather than the helpfully designed automation that considers any reply a positive one and an invitation for further encouragement to Send Money to the phisherman or woman on the other end of the hook, line and sinker.
Bad enough that I should have to waste my time cleaning out multitudes of junk emails. I know, too, that sending along any evidence of this sort of thing to any kind of authorities is futile, and of course the perpetrators of the intended crime also know it full well. As soon as there’s the slightest hint of danger, such lurkers dart off to new pseudonyms and reroute their emails, disappearing without a trace until the next move is necessitated, leaving a wake of idle dalliances and false promises broader than any black widow‘s.
That comparison, though, is apt enough, since the intent is to play upon vulnerable people’s sympathy, greed and loneliness just far enough to get them to surrender the largest amount of cash and personal information the con artist can manage to accrue before leaving like a sneeze: at high velocity and with the victim left covered only in his own shame and sorrow. That these scams work best against the elderly, the young, the inexperienced and the poor is certainly one of the greatest of sins committed by Scam Scum. The amount of creativity involved in developing their villainous schemes, while it could of course be put to higher and kinder uses, seems to me to be lessening with the ease of perpetration offered by anonymous technology.
What quickly became known years ago as the Nigerian scam, for example, has veered only so far as to another part of an equally fictional version of Africa, as my current roster of letters almost always references Benin rather than Nigeria–but the rest of the content remains constant. Plug in new names and change two or three of the variables, and surely someone, even one who knows by now to be wary of references to Nigeria, will respond, and all’s well in the world of easy money. Those who use the cloak of putative widow- or widower-hood, political or religious persecution, or just plain blind trust to approach strangers and ask for help in securing and using massive funds do the very same. I can cite in particular one ‘Mary Mohomed’ who has continued to send me variations on her theme of pretend benevolence repeatedly, even under the same name, claiming an intimacy with me that even in my dotage of 50+ is hilariously impossible to believe of a total stranger. ‘She’ and her obvious relatives ‘Mrs. Rose Daniel’, ‘Mr. David May’, and ‘Mrs. Grace Ike’, along with numerous others–remarkably friendly Doctors, Ambassadors and (lest I be suspicious) officers of various trustworthy government agencies here and abroad, all love me and care for my welfare so deeply that they are willing to seek me out without introduction and invite my participation in ever so many worthy causes, all to be remunerated beyond-generously. And all for a teeny, tiny, infinitesimal, nominal, negligible fee on my part to get the party started.
Now, I will admit to a certain level of entertainment inherent in reading these letters, if and when I occasionally stoop to do so. Besides the intriguing effort to vary the plot line (a transparent practice that results in the virtual equivalent of visible panty lines or the Mad Libs sort of method certain serial novelists are said to use to rework one story into multiple books) email scam letters are loaded with typos, bad grammar and incorrect usage that, while it perhaps does reflect badly on the current state of language in the US and other English speaking locales, often provides hilarious unintentional asides. Today’s prizewinner in this phishing derby is the following letter, which clearly presumes that I would believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has an interest in seeing that I, an unknown but obviously well loved citizen of the Bureau’s own country, receive a sum of money won at random (yes, without my even trying) outside of its own jurisdiction from a lottery in a country not named and the coffers of a generically named pretend gaming Company, and discovered by, I am supposed to suppose, the purposeful working of the Bureau’s own fantastic newfangled machine whose purpose is apparently to monitor activities that are, again, outside of its purview. If that isn’t catchy and convoluted enough for a really cheesy Movie of the Week, I don’t know what is. But I’m glad I’ll have my $2.4million USD handy now to fund the making of said movie. Thanks, FBI! So glad it’ll only cost me $96 of my own money up front to get all of this in perfect order.
Anti-Terrorist And Monetary Crimes Division
FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation
J.Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
This e-mail has been issued to you in order to Officially inform you that we have completed an investigation on an
International Payment in which was issued to you by an International Lottery Company. With the help of our newly
developed technology (International Monitoring Network System) we discovered that your e-mail address was automatically
selected by an Online Balloting System, this has legally won you the sum of $2.4million USD from a Lottery Company
outside the United States of America. During our investigation we discovered that your e-mail won the money from an
Online Balloting System and we have authorized this winning to be paid to you via INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT.
Normally, it will take up to 5 business days for an INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT by your local bank. We have
successfully notified this company on your behalf that funds are to be drawn from a registered bank within the world
winded, so as to enable you cash the check instantly without any delay, henceforth the stated amount of $2.4million USD
has been deposited with IMF.
We have completed this investigation and you are hereby approved to receive the winning prize as we have verified the
entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free, due to the fact that the funds have been deposited with IMF you will
be required to settle the following bills directly to the Lottery Agent in-charge of this transaction whom is located in
Cotonou, Benin Republic. According to our discoveries, you were required to pay for the following,
(1) Deposit Fee’s ( IMF INTERNATIONAL CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE )
(3) Shipping Fee’s ( This is the charge for shipping the Cashier’s Check to your home address)
The total amount for everything is $96.00 We have tried our possible best to indicate that this $96.00 should be
deducted from your winning prize but we found out that the funds have already been deposited IMF and cannot be accessed
by anyone apart from you the winner, therefore you will be required to pay the required fee’s to the Agent in-charge of
In order to proceed with this transaction, you will be required to contact the agent in-charge ( Mr. Nicholas Smith )
via e-mail. Kindly look below to find appropriate contact information:
CONTACT AGENT NAME: Mr. Nicholas Smith
E-MAIL : firstname.lastname@example.org
PHONE NUMBER: +22996334110
You will be required to e-mail him with the following information:
DIRECT CONTACT NUMBER:
You will also be required to request Western Union or Money Gram details on how to send the required $96.00 in order to
immediately ship your prize of $2.4million USD via INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT from IMF, also include the
following transaction code in order for him to immediately identify this transaction : EA2948-910.
This letter will serve as proof that the Federal Bureau Of Investigation is authorizing you to pay the required $96.00
ONLY to Mr. Nicholas Smith via information in which he shall send to you,
Mr. Robert Mueller
Federal Bureau of Investigation F B I
Yours in Service,Photograph of Director
Robert S. Mueller, IIIRobert S. Mueller,
III Director Office of Public Affairs
And if you believe all that, I give you free of charge this magnificent bank vault in which you too can store all of your wealth. Enjoy!
Bwahahaha! Love the kicker…
Been getting phone calls from “Microsoft” to tell me that my computer has a virus, and they need to access it remotely to fix it…I love to mess with them. Put on my best Dumb Cheerleader accent, and just GO…Cheap entertainment, at least.
‘Tis better to give than to receive–applies to monkeyshines as much as anywhere, no?? 😉
spam scum sounds good. At first I thought they were entertaining… but they’ve grown wearisome after a while.
Yes, the rampant numbers get overwhelmingly tiresome. ‘Spam Scum’ sounds like some sort of novelty recipe, but far from kosher in any sense of the word!
Aww…love this, Kathryn, and that is one fancy bank vault! 🙂 Honestly, though, it’s too bad spam is part of daily life and what I worry about are the elderly people who are so easily vulnerable to becoming victims, as you mentioned…not to mention the fact that it is annoying! xx
I’ve gotten many more such ridiculous scam-spams since writing the post too, of course, so if I really *did* try to put them all in the aforementioned vault I’d surely have the granddaddy of all sewer backups. So I’ll just let the ritual remain fictional for now. 😉