Those who have followed my meanderings over the last year know that I have a special place in my heart—not to mention a very special place in Hell—for Internet scammers. Most of the time, their poorly-worded little bombshells are caught by my spam filters, but sometimes they manage to worm their way through into the actual Inbox. I received the following over the past couple of days so I thought I would share them with you. They are not all by any means, but they are quite representative. There are the mundane, the cleaver and one—my personal favorite—that should have every Soldier, Marine, Sailor and Airman in this country’s armed forces sufficiently ticked off to hunt them down. One word of warning: Do not click on any links in the following examples. I have left them active so you can mouse-over them and see that they are, in fact, fakes. So, without further a due, enter the scammers!
The Bank Scam
Here we have two examples of a pretty basic bank scam. The tactic is pretty straightforward in that you are asked for account and/or personal information for some legitimate-sounding reason. Here is one that is supposed to be from the Royal Bank of Canada:
RBC Financial Group always looks forward for the high security of our
clients. Some customers have been receiving an email claiming to be
from RBC Financial Group advising them to follow a link to what appear
to be a RBC Financial Group web site, where they are prompted to enter
their personal Online Banking details. RBC Financial Group is in no
way involved with this email and the web site does not belong to us.
RBC Financial Group is proud to announce about their new updated secure system.
We updated our new SSL servers to give our customers a better, fast
and secure online banking service.
Due to the recent update of the servers, you are requested to please
update your account info at the following link.
RBC Financial Group
RBC Financial Group
Click the link to update your account information. How convenient! The bank wants to make things as easy as possible for me to take care of my information update! Three problems: Banks don’t do this sort of thing; the link, which is made to look like it goes to the Royal Bank, actually goes somewhere else; and I don’t have an account with this bank. Another tip-off is the fact that banks, like most professional organizations, don’t use fonts that look as if they were hand-written. One interesting feature is that the footer of the email (not shown) contains a link to a fake Royal Bank of Canada Internet security page with advice on Internet safety. Don’t you love a scammer with a sense of irony?
The same advice regarding the misdirected link applies to this somewhat more threatening notice supposedly from Sterling Bank:
You have 1 new ALERT message
Please update your Sterling Bank account
Your Internet Banking Account is currently locked.
To Login, please click the link below:
Sterling Bank Online Banking
© Copyright 2009 Sterling Bank. All rights reserved.
Again, I have no association with the Houston-based Sterling Bank, so that raises suspicions right off the bat. However, when I take a look at townandcountry.net, the website that the link points to, I get a real estate company in Florida. Well, at least the typeface is professional.
There is an old joke that goes something like this:
An old man named Joe wanted to win the lottery, so he prayed each and every day, morning and night, asking God to let him win the lottery. The big day for the drawing came and poor Joe, who wore out the knees of his trousers praying to win, lost.
He screamed at the heavens, demanding to know why God failed to answer his prayers. The clouds parted and God answered: “Joe, buy a ticket!”
What does that have to do with scams? If you don’t enter, you cannot win. I mean, if I won all the fake lotteries that say I won, I would be so fabulously well-to-do that I might start getting invitations to swanky Hollywood and Washington parties. Alas, I never bought a ticket in any Netherlands E-Lottery, and yet, it seems, that I have once again come out the winner:
RE: E-LOTTERY CASH PRIZE FOR E-MAIL USERS,
Dear Internet User
WINNING NOTIFICATION FOR 2009 CATEGORY "A" WINNER ONLY
Global Trust E- lottery Organization in the Netherlands is an accredited by associated software manufacturers to conduct e-mail lottery for Internet users all over the world. The essence of the program is to compensate e-mail users world wide for the time and money they spend using the Internet. An online automated random computer draw was made on e-mails addresses on various domains online and I am pleased to inform you on behalf of Global Trust E- lottery Organization in The Netherlands that your e-mail address and other 24, 000 e-mail addresses emerged as winners in the category "A". You and 24,000 e-mail owners worldwide have therefore respectively won a cash prize of $2,500,000.00. (Two Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).
Your cash prize has been insured with your e-mail address with the following numbers attached Ref Number: PW 9590ES 9414, Batch Number: 573881545-NL/2009 and will be transferred to you upon meeting our statutory requirements and our verification that you are the rightful owner of the winning e-mail address. To file in for the processing of your prize winnings, you are advised to send to our Certified and Accredited claims agent for category "A" the following information: Your full
Home and mobile Telephone number:
Country of Residence
All winnings must be claimed not later than two weeks, thereafter unclaimed funds would be included in the next draw for 2010. You are to keep all lotto information confidential, especially your reference numbers. (This is important because if some else who is not you provide us with these numbers and claims your money, we will not be liable). Further, should you be not interested in collecting your money, please send you contact agent an email of decline so that he proceed with official disqualification of your winning.
Name: Anders Lammers
Tel : +31-626-403-076
CONGRATULATIONS ONCE MORE AND THANK YOU FOR USING THE INTERNET.
At least I can be scammed by a live person over the phone. Email is such an impersonal way to steal people’s money, don’t you think? By the way, why would the agent you are supposed to contact in the Netherlandshave a Chinese email account but Netherlands phone numbers? Also, if this is an official person, why the anonymous Yahoo account? Just asking.
EURO MILLION SPANISH LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL.
FROM: VICE PRESIDENT
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION/PRIZE AWARD DEPT.
DATE:12THOf JAN 2009
RE: WINNING NOTIFICATION / FINAL NOTICE Sir/Madam We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Euro Million Spanish Lottery Winners International E-mail programs held on the 1st Of Jan 2009. Your E-mail address attached to ticket number 653-908-321-675 with serial main number 345-790-241-671 which consequently won in the 2nd category, you have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of 1.000.000.00 Euro.(One Million Euro) CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until your claims have been processed and your money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants. All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 100,000 company and 50,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the world.
This lottery was promoted and sponsored by Spanish European Lottery Board in conjunction with all international world organization such as (UNITED NATION, UNICEF, NESCO, W.H.O E.T.C in order to enhance and promote the use of Internet Explorer Users and Microsoft-wares around the globe. This promotional program takes place every three year. *************************************************************
To file for your claim, please contact our fiducially Agent:Dr.Williams Garcia (GARCIA SECURITY COMPANY SPAIN)
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Please Remember to complete the verification form below, As all winning must be claimed as soon you have been notified, Due to the deadline given by the lottery board, As all unclaimed funds will be included in the next stake. Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications please remember to quote your reference number and batch numbers in all correspondence.
Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.
Note: Anybody under the age of 18 is automatically disqualified.
Mrs, Comfort Jose
this message is CONFIDENTIAL. It may also be privileged or otherwise protected by work product immunity or other legal rules. If you have received it please let us know by reply it from your system; you should not copy it or disclose its contents to anyone. All messages sent to and from Garcia Security Company SL may be monitored to ensure compliance with internal policies and to protect your winning from the Euro Million Spanish Lottery Award Promotion. our e-mail transmission and correspondence are 100% protected by our Secured Socket Layer (SSL) server The contents of any email addressed to our clients are subject to our usual terms of business; anything which does not relate to the official business of the firm is neither given nor endorsed by it.
7.NATIONALITY:…………8.COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE:……….
MOBILE NUMBER……………10.FAX NUMBER:…………………
11.BATCH NUMBER :…………12.REFERENCE NUMBER:………..
13. ALTERNATIVE EMAIL ADDRESS IF ANY:…………..
Copyright © 1994-2009The Euro Millions Lottery S.L All rights reserved. Terms of Service - Guideline.
Talk about dense, fine-print style text! That is a tool. They know you don’t want to read all of it so they bury certain keywords that will pop out at you as you scan the text. Words like Congratulations, Winning Notice, Confidential, all pop-out. The sender wants you to feel good, get excited, feel safe—all without reading the whole email. If you did that, after all, you might begin to think about things and they cannot have that. I have just finished reading it and all I can say is Wow! Apparently, I am to get a million Euros from Microsoft and the UN! Lucky me!
Cue the Trojan Horse
Here is something that is just nasty: a fake greeting card notice. Once you click the link to pick up what you think is an e-card from someone you know, it tries to infect your machine with a virus. The virus, a fairly common Trojan is easily quarantined by Norton Antivirus but still, do not click the link!
You have recieved A Hallmark E-Card.
You have recieved a Hallmark E-Card.
To see it, click here,
There's something special about that E-Card feeling. We invite you to make a friend's day and send one.
Hope to see you soon,
Your friends at Hallmark
Your privacy is our priority. Click the "Privacy and Security" link at the bottom of this E-mail to view our policy,
The real clue here is that the two links go to different places and that the one that will infect your computer is blocked and only gives an IP address when you mouse over it. That would not be the case if this was legitimate.
Named after the section of the Nigerian penal code that deals with fraud schemes, 419 Scams (aka Nigerian scams) are, in many ways, the most terrible, since the scammer wants to establish some level of relationship with you in order to milk you for as much money as they can. They can also be the most fun since you have the opportunity to scam your scammer—out of their time, out of their dignity and yes, sometimes, out of their money.
You have to remember a couple of things. First and foremost, if what they are suggesting to you is in any way true, then you will be engaging in criminal activity by going along with it. You are no longer a victim of the scam, you are an accomplice. Second is that these are dangerous people—in person—but they really don’t know who you are or where you are. They fire off thousands of these emails and hope to hook a few suckers.
Let’s have a look at some of the 419 Scam messages that just came in:
I Really needs you to stand as next of kin as who own this money in the bank where i am working. I am Mr david john I will furnish you with all the vital information's regarded to the money.
As short and sweet as this is, David has pretty much summed up how to pick out these emails. Here is the rundown:
No salutation. This just shows that it was not sent to anyone directly, but just scattered around the Internet.
Poor English Mechanics. Capitalization, spacing, punctuation—they are all wrong—a sure sign. You would think someone named David John could do better.
Request for Help. They all want your help to one degree or another in exchange for great wealth.
Now, here is another one that is a bit more complex:
FROM: MR. Patrick K. W. Chan
(Executive Director & Chief financial Officer) Hang Seng Bank Limited
83 Des Voeux Road , Central
Hong Kong SAR
FOR YOUR SPECIAL ATTENTION
It is understandable that you might be a little bit apprehensive because you do not know me but I have a lucrative business proposal of mutual interest to share with you. I got your reference in my search for someone who suits my proposed business relationship.
I am Mr. Patrick K. W. Chan Executive Director & Chief financial Officer of Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have an obscured business suggestion for you. I will need you to assist me in executing a business project from Hong Kong to your country. It involves the transfer of a large sum of money. Everything concerning this transaction shall be legally done without hitch. Please endeavour to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue.
Once the funds have been successfully transferred into your account, we shall share in the ratio to be agreed by both of us
I will prefer you reach me on my private email address below (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) and finally after that I shall furnish you with more information's about this operation.
Please if you are not interested delete this email and do not hunt me because I am putting my career and the life of my family at stake with this venture. Although nothing ventured is nothing gained.
Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.
Mr. Patrick K. W.Chan
Very professional, don’t you think? The spelling is better and this guy can effectively use punctuation and capitalization. Again we have the request for help from someone unknown who wants to transfer a large amount of money, which he plans to share.
What makes it interesting is that a little research shows Mr. Chan to be a real person. The scammer is, therefore, impersonating him. That is a pretty safe bet since the odds of a bank director doing something like this is, to say the least, remote. My response? Assuming that the real Mr. Chan would like to know his name is being dragged through Internet mud, I contacted the bank and told them all about it. True, this isn’t what our fake Mr Chan wanted, but as he said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Speaking of which, here is the one that should have all our military men and women up in arms:
Top of the day to you as I hope my e-mail meets you well. My name is Joey Jones. (Sgt). I work here in Ba'qubah, Iraq as a military attache with the United States Army's engineering unit. Myself and a colleague have about $2.3 million USD. We found this money during a raid on insurgents in Al Fallujah and later discovered that it was from part of the loots meant to fund the insurgencies here in Iraq .
We long had this money lodged some were around Jordan, and now we need to move it out of the country. My colleague and I need a good partner someone we can trust to actualise this project. The money is presently safe were we lodged it for secured purpose. Since one can't send such money through the banks here without raising so much dust, we need your support and assistance in this regard. We are moving it through diplomatic means to your nominated location and address directly or a safe and secured place of your choice using diplomatic courier service.
But can we trust you? Once the funds get to you, you take your 40% out and keep our 60%. Your role in this project is to find a safe place where the funds can be shipped to and received. Our part is sending it smoothly to your nominated location.
If you are interested I will furnish you with more details and you can contact me on my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Awaiting your urgent response,
Sgt. Joey Jones
Our honorable men and women in uniform have it tough enough without some criminal like this dragging their good name through the mud. The last thing they deserve is to be used like this. For that reason alone I want to see this guy found and put out of business. That aside, however, this is a pretty good example of how far these criminals are willing to go to hook you. Thanks to an email trace, we know that this guy is sending his scam message from place called Vestal, New York. Yep, we have home-grown scammers as well as the international variety. You can see the generic salutation, the odd way he refers to himself and his unit (calls his military service into question), the request for assistance and the email addresses that are different from the one he used to send the email. That leads to a legitimate military website (though not an official one).
The Bottom Line
As legitimate income continues to be threatened by the recession and Washington’s ham-handed attempts to deal with it, more and more of these scams will be coming through the ether and settling into your Inbox. It is inevitable, but you don’t have to be a victim. It is pretty simple:
· If you didn’t buy a ticket, you didn’t win the lottery.
· If you don’t have an account with a given bank, they don’t need to update your account.
· If you do have an account, they won’t ask you for information via email.
· If it looks like it was written by a grade-schooler, it isn’t legitimate.
· If someone you don’t know wants you to receive a transfer of money, it is a scam.
· If it is for real, you become a criminal by complying.
· If you get an e-card, make sure the links go where they should before you click!
If you are unsure if a person or company is real, Google them. If you want to trace an email that you received, visit http://www.ip-adress.com, they have all sorts of tools to help you. In any case, make sure your computer defenses are up to scratch.
Most of all, remember that there is no such thing as money for nothing and no one who emails you out of the blue wants to give you money. Be a skeptic, be safe.