Friendly scam artists

Everyone is (or should be) familiar with the infamous Nigerian 419 scam in which people write to you saying that there is this enormous fortune that needs to be taken out of some country and that if you are willing to assist, you will get a share of the proceeds. Everyone has received them would have noticed how poorly written these appeals are but as I explained earlier, that crudity is deliberate because the appeals have to be such as to not elicit a response from people who are likely to discover that it is bogus before they have parted with any money. Those people are a waste of the scammers’ time. The scammers want to only get responses from the really naïve.

Recently these appeals to me have gone upscale and taken the form of warning me not to be taken in by bogus scams. These alerts have arrived under the names of real people like James Comey (head of the FBI), Gene Dodaro (of the Government Accountability Office), and Ban Ki-moon (Secretary General of the United Nations).

I particularly liked Ban Ki-moon’s letter because it was so friendly, considering that we have never met. Here it is in its entirety, with just names and other details redacted.


Attention Scam victim

How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family?, You may not understand why this mail came to you.

In regards to the recent meeting between the United Nations and the Present United States Government to restore the dignity and Economy of the Nations. Base on the Agreement with the World Bank Assistance to help and make the world a better place for all with the sole aim of abolishing poverty.

We have been having a meeting for the passed 2 months which ended 2 days ago with the secretary to the UNITED NATIONS.

This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS have agreed to compensate them with the sum of Ј9,900,000 Nine Million Nine Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling) This includes every foreign contractors that may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to Government problems etc.

Your name and email was in the list submitted by our Monitoring Team observers and this is why we are contacting you, this have been agreed upon and have been signed, so you are advised to contact Mr. Paul Williams of Royal Bank of Scotland UK, as he is our representative in UK, contact him immediately for your Compensation payment of Ј9,900,000 Nine Million Nine Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling) Funds will be release direct to you in accordance with legal clearance and procedures.

This meeting was first held on the 8th of April 2005. You can view this page for your perusal. [url]

Therefore, you should send [name redacted] your full Name/telephone number/your residential address/Gender and Occupation.

Contact [name redacted] immediately for your compensation payment:

Contact Person: [name redacted]
Email: [email address]

Good luck and kind regards

Making the world a better place

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

Then there was one that I received from someone who seems like a broker and wrote as if we knew each other well (even though he thought my name was mxs24) and was equally chatty and friendly (see the parts that I bolded) and was eager to give me a hot tip on a stock.

Dear mxs24,

I know you were expecting to hear back from me much earlier but I didn’t want to get back to you empty-handed. I finally found the perfect stock for you and I am confident that it will make you some serious profit.

Remember the one I told you about in November of last year right? You did very well on it and I think this PRFC stock will do the same for your portfolio again.

I have to let you know though that I’m not the only one who found out about PRFC today.

A few of my colleagues are aware as well and they are telling their friends and family about it so I must advise you to move fast if you want to buy it.

I think it’s trading at just around 15 cents right now, if you wait too long it might be at 30 or even higher and at that time I won’t be able to safely advise you to buy it.

You can buy as many shares as you can first thing at market open on Friday or worst case scenario buy it on Monday but move fast.

I know you don’t care about what the company does because you know I’ve done all the due diligence for you already but PRFC is actually amazing and I think it will do much better than even the one I told you about a few months ago.

One of the company’s divisions offers mobile software solutions for the gaming industry. The mobile apps allow customers to play lottery and other games of chance and skill on their smartphones.

The software is extremely advanced and could be the backbone of all mobile casinos in the future.

It is expected that the US will legalize online gaming in the near future and this could catapult PRFC to new highs however even without that the company’s software is extremely valuable in the rest of the world and could become extremely profitable.

Something big is definitely brewing at the company. I heard something about buy out rumors but I don’t have all the details yet I will keep you posted over the coming days or weeks.

Anyway I won’t bore you with much more blabber, but if you have a second do check out PRFC.

By the way I will be expecting a nice gift from you once you make fat bank on this one and a nice dinner with the wives is in order.

It’s been too long since we last spent a good evening over a bottle of wine. I was going to call you to tell you about PRFC but I figured youre probably asleep now with those crazy shifts you’ve been working. Take care and call me if there’s anything.

Talk soon
Your favorite friend and only broker 🙂

[name redacted]

Who could resist such an appeal from someone who is clearly a good friend though for the moment I cannot recognize the name and don’t recall ever contacting any broker?

This last one is a ‘pump and dump’ scheme, where people buy some actual stock in a real company at cheap prices and then talk it up to everyone in the hope of its price rising briefly so that they can sell their own stock for a profit before the price drops again.

In this case, the racket seems to have worked, suggesting that there are always people who can be duped even by the most obvious of scams.


  1. coragyps says

    Heh. You know you are old when, like me, you once received a Nigerian Letter on paper, with a real Nigerian stamp and a Lagos postmark. I wish I had kept it – that and Ebay might be a way for a recipient to profit from that scam.

  2. M can help you with that. says

    The last one may not be trying to actually pass as an email from someone you know — since it’s a “hot stock tip” pump-and-dump scheme, the idea might be to make people think that they’ve received their “hot tip” by accident. “Oops, this person was trying to email someone else by the name of [first name, which is often part of the email] and got me by mistake…but now I know about this great stock that’s sure to make me money!”

    Still not a very good bet, but the stocks targeted for pump-and-dump are usually small enough in trading volume that they don’t need to trick too many people into thinking they have inside information.

  3. Mano Singham says

    M can help you with that,

    That is a good point, except that the letter was addressed to ‘mxs24’ which, while not my name, is the email alias that my university assigned to me when I first came here back in the very early days of the internet. So the letter was addressed to me. The writer would have been better served to start the letter with “Hi buddy” or some such generic greeting. After all, we are supposed to be good friends, no?

  4. says

    A friend of mine wanted to open up a website in which he’d correct and improve the writing of scams for a nominal fee (payable via stolen paypal account). Of course, his plan was to never deliver anything and just donate the money to a charity.

  5. John Horstman says

    @Marcus Ranum #4: Oh man, I am going to start responding to scams with a similar offer, ironically written in broken English.

    Actually, given how many are spammed from hacked e-mail accounts, that probably wouldn’t be nearly as funny as I’d like. Oh well. :-/

  6. Loqi says

    I’m amused by the all caps United Nations all over the place. It makes it look like the message was composed by someone who just discovered mail merge.

    It’s also unfortunate that the UN doesn’t have any native English speakers. They could have proofread this for Mr. Kai-Moon. It looks really unprofessional to have eg. that question mark/comma combo, especially coming from an esteemed diplomat like Secretary (UNITED NATIONS).

  7. astrosmash says

    any of you guys been to the 419eaters site? hours and hours of fun there. It’s a loosly knit group of folks who scam the scammers by keeping communication exchanges going for as long as they can. Most of the exchanges are pretty old now implyiny, I suppose, that the true scammers finally figured out they were being had

  8. astrosmash says

    I take it back….there are plenty of new and ongoing scamming the scammers operations going on…YAY!

  9. says

    I cannot understand why people continue to fall for these scams. Even if you’re young and have never heard of them, who trusts a complete stranger without any reservations or questions?

    And even if a person isn’t gullible, why respond to unsolicited contact at all? Is mine the last generation that says unsolicited mail, email and phone calls are always inappropriate, and never tolerates or accepts them under any circumstances?

  10. moarscienceplz says

    It’s possible some of the folks who bought this stock aren’t complete gomers. If they know a pump-and-dump is in progress, they could be trying to get a piece of it for themselves. It’s called the “Greater Fool” theory of investment, as in “there must be someone out there who is more foolish than I am and who will take this stock off my hands”.

    Back in the ’80s there was a fad for overt pyramid schemes. People would pay to join the “club” knowing full well that they were hoping they had gotten in early enough to make a profit from the latecomers, who ultimately would lose money. It was really unscrupulous, but it wasn’t illegal at the time, and I knew some people who actually bragged about being in one of these clubs.

  11. pjabardo says

    The thing about these scams is that I don’t feel sorry at all for the idiots who fall for them. Even if the money was real, where do they think it comes from? It is corruption money from poor countries with extremely poor people.

    A few months ago I heard an interview with a lady who fell for the winning lottery ticket scam. And she was mad and complaining about dishonest people and all. But in reality she was trying to take some money from whom she thought was an ignorant dupe. She got what she deserved in my opinion.

  12. AnotherAnonymouse says

    @10, I remember those pyramid scams. I had a family member who joined them…twice. And complained bitterly when they lost their money…twice. I mean, who could possibly have seen that coming?!?

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