December 09, 2008 | Graham

A “Nigerian” scam you could almost fall for

The story looks like the same every time. Someone you “know” because they are a Facebook friend, or because you have exchanged emails, is in London and they’ve been robbed. You’re the only one they can turn to for a loan to tide them over so they can come home.
The first time it happened to me I was on Facebook, and it was an online “buddy” who used the system’s IM to make the request. I felt like such a heel saying “No”, but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t really “know” them, so why would they choose me of all people? Surely they could make a reverse charges phone call to someone who really cared? But I didn’t think too much about it. It could have been desperate non-thinking, or they could have been someone just playing a joke on me.
Then, on Facebook again I was one of a number of people in a group that received a similar request. This time it was via Facebook’s email system, the person wasn’t a Facebook friend, but others in the group were: it was less personal, less immediate, and I’d been through this once before, so I wasn’t tempted.
Now I have just received two identical emails from someone I have corresponded with in the past. This time I wasn’t even vaguely tempted. The subject line “URGENT I NEED YOUR RESPONSE!!!” is typical of a lot of the scam spam that I receive and there were multiple copies, so if I hadn’t recognised the name it would have gone straight to my spam folder. Then when I read the text it had characteristic Nigerian scam formatting, and grammar. It was obviously a form letter, they’d even left some form elements intact because the criminal wasn’t sufficiently literate to do it properly.
But it is a good patter nevertheless, particularly the reference to humanitarian good works.
I’ve reproduced the letter below without the person’s name so you can see what I mean, and also so that if someone google searches some of the phrases they’ll come across this post.
I’m posting this because in the past I’ve seen some quite intelligent friends fooled by plausible emails that have promised a variety of things. This scam was so good that even a cynic like me had to think about it for just a little! By reproducing it here I can also blast it out to the thousands of people on our OLO mailing lists and spread the word a little faster.
And I’ve got no idea how to let this person know. Because the scammers obviously have control of her hotmail, emailing would seem doomed to fail, but I’ll give it a go. Perhaps she will check it before they do…if she still can.

Am sorry I did not inform you about my Trip to Europe for a program called Empowering the Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, and Lack of Education, the program is taking place in three major countries in Europe which are Holland, Turkey and England. But I am presently in England London now Unfortunately all my money and traveling documents were stolen in my hotel room during a robbery incident in the hotel where I lodged. I am so confused now; I don’t know what to do, that is why I decide to contact you for urgent assistance. I need soft loan of £1.400 Pounds? Please I want to use it to sort-out my hotel bills and buy my return ticket. I promise as soon as am back from this trip I will refund the money back to you, But if you can not come up with the amount Please send what you can afford through Western Union with the info below.
Name: [Deleted]
Address: 2-24 Kensington High St
Zip code: W8 4
Test Question: To whom?
Amount send £?
Once you have it sent, please send me the money transfer control number (MTCN), with details used in sending it. I will be expecting your mail as soon as possible

Posted by Graham at 3:32 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: IT

1 Comment

  1. I got the same letter recently after a friend’s hotmail account was hijacked. It was a pretty obvious scam, and I texted them immediately, but they already knew about it.
    The worry is, they use a new Macintosh with the latest OS, and have no idea how their password was harvested. They probably downloaded some spyware inadvertently, but who knows?

    Comment by Chris Grealy — December 10, 2008 @ 5:07 am

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