24 May 2015

Scams, part 2

by Leigh Lundin

© BBB
Last week I wrote about my friend Thrush fielding a scam telephone call pretending to be the IRS. This week I turn my attention to friends who were the subjects of web-mail scams. But as I was writing about other people’s email being cracked, my own was used to spoof addresses of email spammers.

Fourteen years ago, I signed up with AOL. I stuck with them during the vicissitudes of their development cycles, but at some point they wanted to charge fees at a time when their mail interface had run amok. I switched to Yahoo and stuck with them through their vicissitudes of (mis)fortune. Mail received by my old AOL account is forwarded to my Yahoo address, one-way only. I still give out my AOL address– it’s simpler to spell over the phone– but any reply I may make will come from Yahoo, not AOL.

As I’m working on today’s article, imagine my surprise when friends Dale Andrews, Thrush, and Sharon tell me my email’s being used to blast unsuspecting souls with ads for weight loss, penis enlargement, and an eatery called “Quick Sushi”. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have recently been attacked in a similar way. Typically, programs either mine email headers for addresses or they break into an address book. They then email from their own accounts ‘spoofing’ a fake return address hoping acquaintances will open emails from an apparent friend or family member.

But our SleuthSayers’s friend Cate was the unwitting pawn in a different kind of attack, as you can tell in the following exchange. I caught on early as did our friends Sharon and Darlene Poier. Not trusting her other accounts hadn’t been cracked, I immediately sent emails to friends and family to warn Cate her business address had been compromised.

Here’s my exchange keeping the scammers busy. Note the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and keep in mind that Cate, a former teacher, writes and edits textbooks and tutorials.

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To:
Interesting. Cathrine is notorious among family and friends for refusing to carry a cell phone.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 4:59 AM
Subject: Good Morning

How's is your day going,  I'll like to discuss something with you. i should have called, my phone fell in the tub this morning are you online ?  let me know

Cathrine ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒

Sent from my iPad



On 06 May 2015 at 16:11, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Is this you?

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
A professional editor would rather die than write horrible grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

How are you ? hope all is well with you sorry to bother you I'm actually in need of a loan, i have decided to request this from you. its just a token and i intend to refund back by  next week.  please are you able to loan me this funds.

Sent from my iPad



On 06 May 2015 at 17:12, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Now I'm playing with them. But I'm also probing to see what they know: The real Nelly is missing a leg.
I'm sorry to hear that. What happened? Are you okay? Are you in Düsseldorf or München? Isn't Nelly doing the leg work for you? You've got to keep her on her toes.

Of course, I'll help. How many euros do you need? If you send me your street address, Chadwick is leaving Bruxelles in an hour or two. We'll send a courier; just sign for it.

It's a hectic morning, but I'll do what I can.

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
More of the same plus 9000 what? Dollars? Euros? Rand? Notice the stuttering "the the".
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 11:15 AM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Thank you so much the  the funds (9000) its needed for some outstanding payments I'll be more than glad to get it today,  i'll have it refunded before the end of next week i  promise you . can you help me send it through now ? can you help me send money via western union

Sent from my iPad



On 06 May 2015 at 17:26, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

I'm confused. 9000 in which currency? I've got Mickey Chadwick standing by. Are you okay? Elle says you're not in Düsseldorf. Where are you?

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Imagine Bill Cosby saying "R-i-g-h-t…"
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 12:49 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

No i am in south africa now , can you help me send the money now yes i am very okay, reply now



On 06 May 2015 at 19:36, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

What the hell are you doing in South Africa? You're supposed to be in Düsseldorf. What the hell's going on?

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Tap-tap-tap dancing. Notice how "Sent from my iPad" comes and goes.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 1:42 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Yes i went on a quick trip and should be back Düsseldorf on Friday but now i am owing some outstanding payment and i am in good health will you be able to assist me on this money



On 06 May 2015 at 19:54, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Where is Nelly? She can't go running around with you.

Look, I'll send the money if you tell me what currency and your address. Get your arse on a plane and get back to Düsseldorf immediately. We're going to have a long talk.

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Here we go! Notice Cathrine's name– the supposed author of the email– and Johannesburg are spelled wrong as well as all uses of 'its'.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Please send the funds to the below information "Western Union Money In Minutes"

NAME :
    Catherine ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒
    Johanesburg
    South Africa

once its sent please send me the #10 digit confirmation number that will be used to pick up the funds  how long will it take to be sent ?

Sent from my iPad



On 06 May 2015 at 20:18, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Except for Nelly, Chadwick and all other names I use are from stories I've written.
It’s 20h15 here and I imagine the same in SA. Smuts, Sergeant Ngenzolwampi, and Magondo Svitsi are in Harare headed to Pretoria. What’s your addy in Joburg? And where’s Nelly? I’ve given Svitsi orders to clean up your mess and put you on a plane. Smith’s involved in that op in Sana’a and he’ll not like this at all.

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Did I say that?
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Are you saying your no longer sending the money



On 06 May 2015 at 20:30, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Svitsi's got instructions to take care of any trouble you're in including paying off whatever crap you've got into or other measures– I'm sure you know what I mean. Stop being coy about your address; I can't deal with evasiveness. And where's Nelly? Smith's definitely going to be pissed off. Either answer my damn questions or deal with him yourself.

Leigh Lundin



On 07 May 2015 at 06:29, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Smith called in on the sat-phone and he's pissed. Call him ASAP.

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Testy, testy! And look how the spelling deteriorates.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 07:15
Subject: Re: Good Morning

I dont need to call anyone as i need your assistance to leave here but you dont want to send the oney



On 07 May 2015 at 07:43, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Abu Bakr? Never mess with a crime writer. Oh, and never call Cathrine 'Cathy'.
Cathy, I'm asking you to cooperate. Svitsi is standing by with whatever funds you need, but we can't wait forever for you and Nelly. We're trying to run an op and Smith is furious. Abu Bakr is selling out and yet we've got to deal with you. Either make contact or deal with your own problems and don't expect us to bail you out. If you've been captured, you know what to do.

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Likely dreaming but I like to imagine a small sense of panic.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 07:46
Subject: Re: Good Morning

w?



On 07 May 2015 at 07:49, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Message from Smith: Ipso lorem de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum. Si?

Leigh Lundin



From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Unsure what they intended.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 08:26
Subject: Re: Good Morning

(empty email)



From: Maj. Ngenzolwampi <undisclosed@berlin.com>
To: undisclosed list
Always work historical and current events into your fiction.
Sent: Thursday, 08 May 2015 09:50
Subject: OP 2371

Congratulations, team, for another successful operation. One of the best protected men in the world, Nasser al-Ansi, is no more. Special thanks to Colonel Smith and his squad. Job well done! See you in Ankara.



© BBB
I’m happy to report Cate has re-seized control of her business account. She was touched that friends called her land-line to offer help and one of her best clients even deposited money into her business account, money that has to be returned. (Today I received word that the client reacted by awarding her another project rather than have her return the deposit, a very positive outcome.) To the best of her knowledge, no one wired money to the isigebengus, an isiZulu word meaning bad guys.

But I can envision a terrible outcome where a friend reacts and sends money to the swindlers and of course expects to be paid back. Imagine the strain in the relationship of two good-hearted people.

There’s an even more evil ploy in which the isigebengus claim one’s daughter was in a campus accident or someone’s grandson was kidnapped and to send money immediately… all through the anonymity of the internet.

Be cautious out there!



Images © the Better Business Bureau

13 comments:

janice law said...

Good show!
I used to have the impulse to bore crank callers with my latest plot problems but your idea was much better!

Leigh Lundin said...

Thanks, Janice. World events serendipitously played out in North Africa and the Middle East, and I couldn't resist using them.

Melodie Campbell said...

Leigh, I want you on my side, always! Grin. What a sting op. Beautifully executed.

Leigh Lundin said...

Thanks, Melodie. Think how powerful we could be collaborating against scammers!

Eve Fisher said...

Great reverse scam, Leigh! Wow!

R.T. Lawton said...

Leigh, I see you're still having fun with criminals. Good for you. It would be nice to actually track them down.
I recently received a phone call saying I owed money for taxes, else would be arrested. Unfortunately they wouldn't send anyone around to collect the cash. All I wanted was a receipt.

Vicki Kennedy said...

Leigh, I laughed as I read your answers to the scammers. They hadn't a clue you were toying with them. Forgot to tell you I got a weird one from you the other day. I deleted it figuring if it was important-and from you-you’d send it again. Dr. Phil is always having people on who have met the ‘love of their life,’ through email or an online dating service. These ‘catfish.’ as they are called, send emails asking for money and are poorly written and guess what they’re usually traced to somewhere in Africa. There have been women and men who’ve given these creeps every nickel they own and still refuse to believe they’re being scammed. Sadly, it’s a billion dollar business for scammers like that. I get emails from one of the scammers mentioned on Dr. Phil.

A Broad Abroad said...

This really made me laugh, plus the thought of a Yank yanking their chain.

Robert Lopresti said...

Leigh, buddy, you are the wind beneath my wings. Too bad Scamorama isnt adding to itsfiles anymore because your work is worthy. I have been told thar the typos in such letters are a deliberate tactic to shake out people who would waste their time but tese guys really seem illiterate,

Leigh Lundin said...

Thanks, Eve. Messing with their minds is little enough we can do.

RT, not very unreasonable of them to refuse a receipt. It is possible to narrow down an IP address within a few city blocks. It certainly would be cool to zoom in on an exact location.

Vicki, those frauds are insidious. Scams like yours and the one above are particularly nasty because they exploit relationships and damage trust.

ABA, that’s baaaad. But yeah, yanking their chain, wasting some of their time, screwing with their heads, yes, it helps me practice my writing skills.

Thanks, Rob. I appreciate it. Some day I’ll have to share my telemarketer repartee.

Dixon Hill said...

That email exchange is great, Leigh. I can just hear the folks on the other end: "Wait! He wants us to go WHERE? And do WHAT? For WHOM? ABORT! ABORT!" LOL

Leigh Lundin said...

Dixon, you said perfectly what I hoped to do. I wondered if they might have asked themselves “Do we ditch this tablet and run?”

mary fernando said...

Leigh - hilarious!
Makes me want to play with one of those cranks, but could never pull it off like you did!
All the best,
Mary