Once upon a time, most scam messages were long and elaborate, full of detailed stories about dying widows, rich orphans, and deposed dictators. More recently, email fraudsters have taken to sending what I call “mystery scam” messages. The example below, like all such mystery scam messages, tries to do just one thing: get you on the hook so the scammer can manipulate you further:
From: Marcel Nijenhuis M.Nijenhuis@ggnet.nl
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015
Subject: Donation To You
Personal Donation of $2M To You, Contact ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for Info, Please do not ignore, this is the third time trying to reach you.
Disclaimer: Dit e-mailbericht is uitsluitend bestemd voor de geadresseerde en kan privacygevoelige informatie bevatten. Als dit bericht niet voor u bestemd is, wilt u dit dan aan de afzender melden?
If you make the mistake of responding, the scammer will try to manipulate you into sending money to him, and then after picking your pocket he’ll disappear. Study the resources we have here at ScamHunter.org so you can learn to recognize and avoid scams like these.
This is a classic “rich orphan scam” of African origin. “Jolle Atta” has inherited a fortune, and she needs an honest guardian (just like you) to help manage her money. Who wouldn’t want to help an orphan?
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2015
From: Jolle Atta email@example.com
Reply-To: Jolle Atta firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Please help me out
My Dearest one,
I am introducing myself as Miss Jolle Atta the only Daughter of late Mr and Mrs Achi Atta, I wish to request for your assistance in a financial transaction. And I wish to invest in any lucrative business in your country.
I have the sum of money, $5.6 Million USD. (Five Million Six Hundred Thousand United States Dollars). to invest in your country, and I will require your assistance in helping me stand as my foreign Guardian to claim the money from Finance bank here to your country, the money was deposited in Cote D’ivoire, The money is now under the care of the Finance bank in Cote D’ivoire.
I will be gladly to give you 20% out of the total sum for your honest assistance for helping me.
Awaiting your immediate response
Miss Jolle Atta
In reality, “Jolle Atta” is a scammer, perhaps working out of the Ivory Coast or maybe France (see the return email address). If you make the mistake of offering to help, you’ll discover that she needs you to send her some money for “bank fees” or “bribes” to get the money out of her account, and then once she has your money in her hands, like all other advance fee fraudsters, she will disappear and you’ll never hear from her again.
This is a typical example of a “business investment” scam. (See more examples of business investment scam messages.) Someone who says his name is Alwash Ahmad wants to know if you can handle a multi-million dollar contract from Libya. But honestly: are you a big business person who routinely makes deals with foreign countries? No? Then why on earth would “Alwash Ahmad” be writing to you?
From: “Reedy, William” email@example.com
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2015
Subject: My Inquiry is from Libya.
My Inquiry is from Libya.
Kindly advise if your company has the license or capability to execute a multi million contract supply project for the Government of Libya. kindly furnish me your response. Thank you and treat very urgent.
Looking forward to an early response.
In truth, “Alwash” is writing to you because he’s a scammer trying to pick your pocket. If you answer him, he’ll spin an elaborate story about how he can cut you in on a percentage of the profits from his great business deal. But the catch is, you’ll have to put some advance money up front. And then once he’s got your advance fee, he’ll disappear, never to be heard from again.
This is an example of a familiar type of email scam that tries to involve you in a supposed (but actually non-existent) inheritance fraud. Someone with your last name left behind a fortune in an abandoned bank account. (See more examples of abandoned bank account scams.) If you’ll help the fraudster, so he claims, he’ll cut you in on part of the money:
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 2015
From: Sven Neumann firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Read Carefully And Reply ASAP
I am Mr. Sven Neumann, Principal Officer Private Banking Dept of the Swiss Bank Corporation (UBS) Basel , Switzerland. I am getting in touch with you regarding the Estate of a deceased client with similar last name and an investment placed under our Bank management 6 years ago. Given my exclusive access to his file, you will be made the beneficiary of this fund under my careful supervision to you and on verification, which will be the details I make available to my bank, my bank will contact you. If we can be of one accord for a settlement of mutual benefit, please get back to me for more details.
I await your response.
If you make the mistake of replying you’ll get caught up in a web of lies, and the end result will be that the con artist who sent the message will have your money in his pocket.
Please share this scam alert with your friends on social media.
This is a carefully-designed phishing scam, and that means it’s a dangerous one that has a good change of tricking people. (Read more about how phishing scams work.) Some scam messages are written in broken English, but this one is clear and so might be taken for authentic. But there are a number of minor formatting problems in it, and you’ll note especially that the “From:” address (email@example.com) is not a real PayPal address:
And the fact that it tells you to download an attachment (deactivated here) is a big red flag. It is through attachments like this that phishing scammers either steal your passwords or introduce malware onto your computer.
Here at The Scam Hunter we document these messages to help people avoid getting caught in the fraudsters’ traps. If you’re ever in doubt about a message that claims to come from your bank or a similar financial agency, it’s always best to contact that company directly and ask for confirmation.
This message is a new version of the same old kind of advance fee fraud message. (Read more about how advance fee scams work.) In this example, “Dave Moore” says there was some money that was supposed to be paid to you but wasn’t, and now the money is ready. You just have to ask to get it:
From: “Mr. Dave Moore” firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: APPROVED TRANSFER OF YOUR FUND.
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2015
Date: 17th June, 2015.
FROM MR. DAVE MOORE.
HEAD OF FINANCIAL SERVICE AUTHORITY INVESTIGATION AND SETTLEMENT TEAM, UK.
RE: File Number: FSAIST/L-UK/US/0024/13.
I am glad to inform you that from our investigation as directed by FSA, we discovered an unpaid/unclaimed fund in your name which was supposed to be paid out to you a long time ago, but was not due to some logistic reasons.
However, an arrangement has been made for you to receive your outstanding fund through our corresponding payment bank in Europe by online transfer.
It may interest you to know that we have successfully concluded arrangements with our corresponding payment bank to transfer your fund to you through online transfer.
We have already moved your payment file to the appropriate department of our corresponding payment bank and you will be directed on how to contact the bank as soon as you indicate your readiness to receive your fund through the bank.
You are hereby advised to confirm your readiness to receive your fund through our corresponding payment bank, so that we shall send you the contact details of the officer to contact in the bank to enable you contact him for your fund transfer.
You are also advised to re-confirm the following information;
1, FULL NAME AND ADDRESS…..
2, AGE AND MARITAL STATUS…..
I look forward to hearing from you.
Mr. Dave Moore.
HEAD OF FINANCIAL SERVICE AUTHORITY INVESTIGATION AND SETTLEMENT TEAM, UK
This is a classic example of an African 419 scam message, in this case coming from a supposed rich orphan from the Ivory Coast. (See more examples of “rich orphan scams” and more examples that claim to come from the Ivory Coast.) “Sandra Assi” lost her father — how sad — but he left her a fortune. And now she needs your help to manage it:
From: “Sandra Assi” email@example.com
Subject: From Sandra Assi
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2015
From Sandra Assi
Good day, may the blessings of God be upon you and grant you the wisdom and sympathy to understand my situation and how much I need your help. After going through your profile I was convinced that you are reputable and a trust worthy person who can help me.
I am contacting you with the hope that you will be of great assistance to me. My name is Sandra Assi, 21 years old Girl from Cote D’ Ivoire, My father and i escaped from our country at the heat of the civil war after loosing my mother and two of my senior brothers in the war. As a result of the political instability in my country even after the war, my father established his cocoa and coffee export business in my country Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He was in Burke, A northern city to negotiate for the purchase of a cocoa plantation when he was shot by the rebel troupes fighting to take over the Government of the country. The death of my father has now made me an orphan and there by exposing me to danger. Before his unfortunate death, my late father called me beside his sick bed and told me as his only surviving Daughter, that he had deposited in one of the prominent bank here in our country the sum of $9million Dollars. With my name as the next of kin.
As a result of the present insecurity of lives and property in this country, I wish request that you assist me use your account in your country to transfer my inherited fund for onward business investment Again to assist me with a letter of invitation that will make me get a visa to your country for residence in order for me to continue my education under your care and to invest the fund in a viable business venture. I am willing to give you 15% while 5% has been earmarked for expenses. I will appreciate it if you respond to me as soon as you received my e-mail so that we can discuss further on this matter.
Please i will like you to contact me on this my private email box (firstname.lastname@example.org )
This is an example of what I call a “mystery scam” — an approach that is becoming more popular among email scammers. (See more examples of mystery scams.) They try to hook you into replying with a very brief message, promising a mysterious benefit:
I seek your consent for an urgent business deal for you
Chan Wei Sang
But why would someone named “Chan Wei Sang” be sending messages from the address of “Akhmed Dubayev” in Denmark? (That’s what the .dk address means.) The answer is that these email addresses are all phony or are hacked, and there really is no business deal — just a fraudster trying to separate you from your money.
This is an example of what I sometimes call a “mystery scam.” (See more examples of mystery scam messages.) Someone has sent you $4500 via Western Union. But who sent it? And why? You’ll have to call “Tony John” or “Kevin Anthony” to find out:
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2015
From: Tony email@example.com
Subject: MTCN= 8845-115-202
Your first payment of $4500.00 has been sent today via Western Union. You are advise to Contact WU with your full information to enable them give you Sender Name, Question and Answer to pick up your First Payment MTCN= 8845-115-202, For more information contact Mr. Kevin Anthony, Tele: +229 66934781 Email: (firstname.lastname@example.org) he’ll keep sending you payment until your total fund is Completed
Thank you for cooperation
If you do make the mistake of calling, you’ll find out that your money is ready to be delivered, except … you need to pay a “release fee” or a “customs tax” or a “service charge” before it can be sent to you. And if you make the bigger mistake of paying, then the scammers will disappear and you’ll never hear from them again.
The name of the South African government official Susan Shabangu has been used by email scammers for many years. The latest such message follows a format that scammers are starting to use more often: a very brief email, combined with an attachment that includes more details. The email itself only reads:
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2015
From: “MRS.SUSAN SHABANGU” email@example.com
Reply-To: “MRS.SUSAN SHABANGU” firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: I NEED YOUR HELP PLEASE VIEW THE ATTACHED FILE AND GET BACK TO ME
MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
Although it’s not usually a good idea to open attachments from people you don’t know, we sometimes do it here at ScamHunter.org so we can provide as much information to our readers as possible. The attachment is a pdf file that contains a very familiar advance fee fraud letter with all the usual features — a secret bank account, a rich widow, and poor orphans:
FROM MRS. SUSAN SHABANGU
Minister of Women in the Presidency
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
First, let me start by introducing myself as MS SUSAN SHABANGU, a mother of three children and the Minister of Women in the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa since May 2014. To date under the auspices of the President of South Africa MR JACOB ZUMA. After due deliberation with my children, I decided to contact you for your assistance in standing as a beneficiary to the sum of US$30.5M (Thirty Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only) You can view my profile at my (website ) and read about me. THE PROPOSAL, After the swearing in ceremony making me the Minister of Women in the Presidency, my husband Mr. Ndebele Shabangu died while he was on an official trip to china in 2014.
After his death, I discovered that he had some funds in a dollar account which amounted to the sum of US$30.5M with a security and finance institution in South Africa of which I will divulge information to you when I get your full consent and support to go for a change of beneficiary and subsequent transfer of the funds into you a comfortable and conducive account of your choice.
This fund emanated as a result of an over-invoiced contract which he executed with the Government of South Africa. Though I assisted him in getting this contract but I never knew that it was over-invoiced by him. I am afraid that the government of South Africa might start to investigate on contracts awarded from 1990 to date.
If they discover this money in his bank account, they will confiscate it and seize his assets here in South Africa and this will definitely affect my political career in, government. I want your assistance in opening an account with bankers through my banker so that this fund could be wired into your account directly without any hitch. I am offering you 20% of the principal sum which amounts to US$6,100.000.00 (Six million One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only) and 5% will be for any expenses that both of us may Insure in this transaction. And another 5% will go for Motherless babes home. However, you have to assure me and also be ready to go into agreement with me that you will not elope with my fund.
If you agree to my terms, kindly as a matter of urgency send me an email. (email@example.com ) if you want to speak with my Banker that promise to help move this fund out of south Africa to your account, that is fine give you my private numbers so that we can talk more about the transfer, Please I do not need to remind you of the need for absolute Confidentiality of this transaction.
You might think where i got your email contact, i got your email id from the South Africa chamber of commecre in a search for a honest person who will assist me transfer my fund out of South Africa
My regards to your family.
Yours faithfully, pls get back to me
MRS. SUSAN SHABANGU
Minister of Women in the Presidency
Republic of South Africa since May 2014.
PLEASE REPLY WITH MY PRIVATE EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since “Susan Shabangu” seems to be popular with the scammer crowd, we can be pretty sure we’ll see her name in more messages in the future.
Please be aware that scammers often use the names of real people and legitimate businesses in their fraudulent messages. Why? To lend an air of legitimacy to their criminal enterprise. Just because the name of a real person or a real bank or a real government agency appears in a scam message that doesn't mean the person or organization in question is involved in the scam in any way. The scammers are just stealing these names in order to make themselves look legitimate.