Thursday, March 05, 2009

“Spam Solicitations, Continued”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(2-09)




Late last year, I wrote about my online interaction with Barrister Bhag Sulaiman of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This elusive lawyer sent a ‘spam’ solicitation that was intended to gain my trust for a bogus money scheme. Briefly, I traded e-mail messages with the fellow, in the hope that he would send some sort of fictitious identification that could be used in our newspaper. After some prodding, he gifted me with a poorly faked passport. It provided a perfect visual for my column about his devious actions.

After we parted company, other dubious offers continued to arrive in my ‘Thoughts At Large’ account. Yet they paled by comparison. Each proposal lacked the sort of flair displayed by Mr. Sulaiman:

“Hello, I am a civil lawyer. I have a client that wishes to invest her financial estate in your country; can you be of assistance as a partner? If you can, then kindly respond to this email. I will give more details when you reply. If you are not interested please do not reply back. This transaction will demand absolute secrecy from you.”

- Braham Rawlinson

Not only were these offers brief and unappealing, but they also seemed to have been written without much faith in their likelihood of being taken seriously. After reading about many adventures in con-artistry on the Internet, these lukewarm advances came as a disappointment. But I reckoned that even such foreign criminals were vulnerable to fatigue. Their lack of enthusiasm grew as the stream of ‘spam’ continued:

“Your email address as indicated was drawn and attached with serial
numbers FTS/8070337201/06 and drew the lucky numbers 15-22-24-48-50-37(30) which subsequently won you 1,000,000.00 (One Million Great Britain Pounds) from the U.K FREE PROMO The draws registered as Draw number one was conducted in Brockley, London United Kingdom on the 23rd February 2009. Find below the details of the Claims Agent and contact him with the following details for verifications. FULLNAME, FULLADDRESS, NATIONALITY, AGE, OCCUPATION, MOBILE/TELEPHONE NUMBER, DATE OFWINNING AWARD, SEX, TOTAL AMOUNT WON, SERIAL/LUCKY NUMBERS.”


- Mrs. Rita Shawn UK Promo Announcer

Still, after a couple of months had passed, the work of more talented scammers began to fill my e-mail account once more. A series of prolific proposals popped up, with the same sort of sneakiness that Bhag Sulaiman had sent, rendered in comically bad English:

“DEAR FRIEND, I KNOW THAT THIS EMAIL WILL BE A BIG SURPRISE TO YOU, BUT I WANT YOU TO CALM DOWN AND READ VERY CAREFULLY. I HAVE A BUSINESS WHICH WILL BE BENEFICIAL TO BOTH OF US. THE AMOUNT OF MONEY INVOLVED IS ($ 15,200.000.00 FITEEN MILLION TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS) WHICH I WANT TO TRANSFER OUT OF THE COUNTRY TO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, ALL TO MY FINANCIAL BENEFIT AND YOURS TOO. AND ALSO TO TAKE MY WIFE ABROAD FOR TREATMENT OF LIVER DAMAGE. THIS MONEY IS OWNED BY A MAN CALLED JIN SUN, A BUSINESS COMMERCIALIST IN WEST-AFRICAN REGIONS. HE HAS BEEN DEAD SINCE SIX YEARS AGO AND SINCE THEN, NO CLAIM HAS BEEN PLACED ON HIS BANK ACCOUNT BALANCE… SUCH FUND CANNOT BE TRANSFERRED WITHOUT A NEXT OF KIN ATTACHED TO THE FUND… YOU SHALL PRESENT YOURSELF AS A BUSINESS ASSOCIATE TO THE DECEASED PERSON [JIN SUN] AS DETAILS SHALL BE THAT YOU ARE THE CARE-TAKER BUSINESS ASSOCIATE TO MR. JIN SUN AND HIS PROPERTIES. I SHALL MAKE AVAILABLE TO YOU MATERIALS AND INFORMATION WITH WHICH A SUCCESSFUL CLAIM SHALL BE PLACED ON THE FUND. I SHALL ALSO BE YOUR GUIDIANCE AND INSTRUCTOR THROUGHOUT THE DURATION OF THIS TRANSACTION SO AS TO ENSURE A SWIFT AND SURE TRANSFER OF THE FUND TO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT.”

- ALLAUDDIN MUHAMADAD, AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK (ADB)
OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA FASO

The message from Mr. Muhamadad made me smile. It was the first time I could remember a ‘spam’ message that used family health concerns as a motivating factor. It constituted a new approach to separating an unwilling victim from their money.

My amazement could not be hidden. This charlatan was bold and brazen!

Another too-good-to-be-true invitation appeared to come from England. In this note, the sender confessed to being under direct scrutiny by his employer:

“Dear Friend, I am Mr. Matt Ridley, Former Chairman Northern Rock. I have a confidential business Proposition for you. On June 6, 2003, Colin Morley, 52, a marketing consultant Made a (Fixed) Deposit, valued at US $20,000,000.00, (twenty Million, Dollars) in my Bank. Upon maturity, I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his employers, that Colin Morley died from 7 July 2005 London bombings. On further investigation, I found out that he died without making a WILL and all attempts to trace his next of kin were fruitless… This sum of US $20,000,000.00 has carefully been moved out of my bank to a security company for safekeeping. No one will ever come forward to claim it. According to British Law, at the expiration of (three) years, the money will revert to the ownership of the British Government if nobody applies to claim the fund. Consequently, my proposal is that I will like you to stand in as the owner of the money I deposited it in a security company in two trunk boxes though the security company does not know the contents of the boxes as I tagged them to be photographic materials for export. I am writing you because I have a big problem with the Bank making me to resign my appointment from the Bank, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7052828.stm) I cannot operate a foreign account or have an account that is more than $ hundred thousand dollars. Because of the problem and I am still under investigation. I want to present you as the owner of the boxes in the security company so you can be able to claim them with the help of my attorney. This is simple… The money will be moved out for us to share in the ratio of 70% for me and 30% for you.”

- Matt Ridley

When I clicked on the embedded link in his message, an actual news story from the BBC filled my computer screen. It spoke about the real Matt Ridley, Chairman of Northern Rock, having stepped down because of his role in a near-collapse of the financial institution. While I guessed that the actual author of this message was probably another Nigerian resident, their creativity in the scam attempt seemed laudable.

It was another wild cyberspace encounter.

Eventually, these surreal offers faded away, as before. But their entertainment value lingered, along with a sense of how raucous the world outside of our borders remains. We often take the domestic rule of law for granted. Yet in many corners of the world, chaos has maintained its powerful grasp on reality.

After reading the messages, I felt lucky.

It took only a stroke of the ‘delete’ key, and my spamtastic adventure had come to an end!

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