Thursday, February 14, 2008

More Sophisticated Spam, Scam, and Scram Schemes: Warning!


(See note at end)

No snark and no jokes here, but just a warning:

Scammers have developed the so-called "Nigerian" scam to a whole new level by adding bonafide links to real news stories about actual companies. The scammer then inserts him or herself as a CEO or other high official in the company.

This probability that this person is a scammer: 99.9999999%

The message here: if it's too good to be true, then run like the wind. Don't allow basic human greed to overrule common sense.

If you are savvy in these matters, this message isn't for you, but if you have ever been tempted to bite, here's a sample message (They tend to be formulaic and filled with grammatical gaffes) and some future scamming trends to watch:


FROM [Deleted--the name is likely false or hijacked.]


[Deleted--the name is likely false or hijacked.]


Dear Friend
[A definite red flag--why is he emailing a stranger?] ,

I got your contact address after my extensive search via your country white pages [Nope. Highly unlikely], for a God-fearing and trust-worthy person to bestow this transaction which is the only hope of survival [Why is "Greed" and "Godliness" such a seductive combination?]. When i got your address, I prayed and meditated fervently over it and i committed it into the hands of God that you should be the rightful person to help me .

Permit me to seek your attention in so informal a manner. I am [DELETED], the chief executive of Yukos to MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, the richest man in Russia , Chairman CEO: YUKOS OIL (Russian Largest Oil Company). I seek your partnership in an urgent financial business of US$18 Million. .

My Boss MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY was arrested in October 2003 for his involvement in politics and the financing of opposing political parties which posed a treat to President Vladimir Putin's second tenure in 2004 as Russian president.

You can read more of this on the web sites below:

[This link is bonafide; I checked it by going to the main BBC AND then going to the news page by clicking on "news" in the left panel. I then typed in "Yukos Oil" in the site search box, and pulled up a story about Yukos oil.]

[If you don't know a sender, never link directly to an email embedded in a message. There are many scam "look-alike" sites that may contain a "typo" of a real site, such as "troffic" for "traffic."]

[This, too, is a bonafide story, but I recommend staying off this site because it's spammy with lots of annoying ads that redirect you away from your target page.]

[This is a website with unknown credibility, so I deleted it.]

The Russian Government had already concluded plans to freeze all corporate and personal accounts in the name of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

However, in other to boost the investor confidence in the Russian Economy , We decided to approve the payment of millions of Dollars to all YUKOS OIL Contractors and Suppliers.

The Fund US$18M involved was approved by the Russian Authorities as part of payments to the various YUKOS OIL contractors/suppliers to prevent them from loosing the money they invested in the numerous contracts they executed for YUKOS OIL.

In my position as the chief executive of YUKOS OIL before I resigned on July 21, 2006, I raised a memo stating that YUKOS OIL owed US$18M to a foreign contractor and the Russian Authority have approved this amount for payment.

Actually, we have paid all our contractors both local and foreign because they agitated for their payment when they heard that my boss was arrested.

I now seek your consent to present you or your company as one of the contractors we owe so that you can stand as the beneficiary of the above sum.

I will furnish you with the necessary documents, which the payee bank will need to transfer the sum to your nominated account.

I have decided to use part of this sum to relocate my family out of Russia due to the present insecurity we face.

I cannot lay direct claims to this payment, as i need to present a foreign person or company to stand as the beneficiary.

This business is safe and we will be willing to reward you with 30% of the total sum for your partnership. As soon as I get your willingness to assist i will provide more details.

Please contact me immediately via my private secured email stated below giving your direct contact telephone and fax numbers.

[Of course I deleted Mr. Scammer's contact information.]


Scammers have always been around, and, as long as there are naive greedy people, these con men and women will continue to develop new and more sophisticated internet schemes.

For the future, look for these scam "improvements":

--Better writing. These scamsters will soon discover that the ungrammatical letter is no longer effective and may actually hire unsavory freelance writers to write polished letters for them.

--Better domain names. Believe it or not, many of the "premium" domain names are on so-called "parking lots." As "parking" becomes less lucrative (financially), look for some of these domains to be used for scam websites. My message here: just because a domain URL looks credible doesn't mean it is. Example: used to be a porn site (which eventually sold for millions; it is now a political site).

--More sophisticated websites: better graphics, layout, text, and navigation. Some computer functions can now be done automatically: feed in info, template, and graphics and spit out an attractive website. Even blogger gets easier and easier to use--I'm not that tech-savvy, but I find blogger very easy to use.

--Personalized emails to potential marks. The incorporation of "micro-scamming" has already infiltrated the domaining world. The scammer gets registration info from Whois and then tailors a message to the domain owner: "Your domain is about to expire; go to this link now to renew..."

The savvy domainers keep track of their expiration dates; however, there are enough newbies around that this scam seems to persist.

Expect micro-scamming to spread into other areas, such a writing and publishing. Most of us are already aware of bogus literary agents and publishers.

--Emails that hijack the names of people you know. It's not all that difficult to build a data base of paired names.

In short, do your research.

Don't be a dupe.



UPDATE: After I posted this entry, I checked my email and found a micro-spamming email that was specifically targeted to me (as a domainer); my email address appeared in the text of the email and was probably pharmed.

Read about this micro-scam here.

It's only a matter of time before this scam pervades other fields, including writing.


Copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel

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