The great fantasy everyone wants to come true: You receive an email from a lawyer, barrister or bank employee stating a long-lost relative you've never heard of has died. The email goes on to say that after an exhaustive search, you are the only known living heir to your long-lost relative's fortune. Congratulations, you're a MILLIONAIRE! But first, you need to pay the international transfer fee, a bank holding fee or cover some legal expenses and the money is yours!. All you have to do is fax your identification or a bit of personal information (social security number, bank account number and bank routing number, etc.) or simply reply to the email with your information.
The Real Story Behind Inheritance Scams and Email Fraud
Inheritance scams are run by scam artists (usually located in Eastern Europe, Africa or South East Asia) who purchase or steal lists of email addresses. In today's online world it's surprisingly easy to obtain massive lists (tens of thousands) of email addresses containing recipients' full names and often mailing addresses. The email you received was most likely part of a mass emailing sent out to hundred or thousands of individual email addresses. With the help of a laptop computer and a fairly simple computer program scam artists are able to create one email template, leaving the email address and recipients' name blank. The computer program is designed to run through the massive list of email addresses, cutting and pasting each email address and matching recipient name into individual emails based on the template and sends them off to thousands of recipients email accounts. Much like a fisherman who's baited his hook and cast his fishing line, the scam artist sits back and waits to see who will bite. The beauty of this scam is that many recipients of the email are caught off guard and feel a false sense of security because the email was addressed directly to them using their proper full name.
When an unsuspecting recipient takes the bait and decides to reply to the email (and many of them do), the scam artist starts to reel in the hook using an intricate series of online or phone correspondences weaving a web of "advance fee" FRAUD. The scam artists does his best to keep the recipient on the hook by pretends to be a lawyer, barrister or bank employee (depending on the fantasy story used in the initial email) and sends official looking fake bank or government documents that corroborate the story of the long-lost rich, dead relative. While playing the role of an official, scam artists often attempt to get copies of the recipient's ID cards, bank account numbers and other information which will be used to commit identity theft by open credit cards accounts in the recipient's name and make purchases and bank withdrawals from the recipient's existing accounts.
Once a sense of trust has been established, the recipient is pressured to "advance" a small sum of money which is needed to pay "fees" or other expenses. With delicate prodding from the scam artist the recipient begins to believe that they have in fact won the family-tree jackpot and the idea of sending a few hundred (or thousand) dollars to a person they've never met in a foreign country they've never visited beings to sound like a good idea. After all, the recipient is just days or even hours away from becoming extremely rich. Soon blinded by fantasies of dream vacations and millionaire spending sprees, common sense goes out the window and the false promise that once the money's been received the fees or other expenses will quickly be paid and the millions will be immediately wired or shipped to the recipient sounds like a great deal.
Though the fees and other expenses may seem small when compared to the riches they offer make no mistake, even if you are only risking $50 or $100. Any money you send will be gone forever and if it's sent through your bank account or mailed along with any personal identification, the theft of your identity is almost guaranteed.
Scam artists often engage in multiple types of fraud at the same time and are often seen as a notification of a winning lottery ticket or internet sweepstakes. The most well know of these lottery frauds, often called "Nigerian Email Fraud (419 scam)" has devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the United States and Canada.
How Did They Find Me?
Most people who have an email address for any significant amount
of time receive so-called "spam email" (more politely known as "unsolicited
commercial email.") Spammers create lists of email addresses by collecting
them from websites, buying them from other businesses, and even by guessing
possible names on popular email hosts such as Yahoo! mail and Hotmail. It
is possible to buy large email lists for relatively small amounts of money.
Most people who are running these scams get spam mailing lists in this manner,
or buy them from spammers.
What Harm Is There In Contacting Them,
"Just In Case"?
There is no point in contacting them "just in case"
- no one has ever received the promised money. You won't,
Also, the scammer is likely to try to obtain from you information
that can be used to fake your identity and commit credit card fraud or bank
fraud. Even if they only get your name and bank account number they may be
able to forge a bank draft, obtain a fraudulent money transfer from your account,
or get credit using your name. If you give them any information,
they will try to use it to cheat you.
Third, some of these scammers will actively try to lure you
to Africa with the intention of holding you for ransom.
You may have seen sites where people turned the tables on the
scammers, making them do foolish things or stringing them along. But it's
safer just to delete their emails and forget them.
Sample Spam Emails
The following are sample spam emails from this particular scam:
Inland Bank plc.
P.M.B. 0505, Bauchi.
me if I intrude your privacy, we do not know each other but it does
not matter. what matters is transperency between us in this deal.
I am Mr favor Adim Duke an Accountant with Inland Bank plc. I came
to know about you in my private search for a reliable and reputable
person to handle this confidencial business transaction. A foreigner,
Late Engr Burke Sean a Contractor with the Federal Government Of until
his death in Korean Air flight 801, which Crashed in Guam on August
1997, banked with us here at Inland Bank P.l .c and had a closing
balance of US$20.5M (Twenty Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars)
which the bank unquestionably expects it to be claimed by any available
next of kin of the late beneficiary or alternatively be donated to
a discredited trust fund for Arms and Ammunition at a Military War
College here in Nigeria.
have been made by the Inland bank to get in-touch with any of the
Burke's family or relative but proved to no avail. it is because of
the perceived possiblity of not being able to locate any of the late
Engr. Burke Sean's next of kin that the management under the influence
of our chairman and Members Of The Boards Of Director, Mr I Yuguda,
that an arrangement be made for the funds to be declared Unclaimable
and subsequently be donated to the Trust Fund for Arms and Ammunition
to further Enhance the course of war in Africa and the World in General
as you know that war will eventually bring destruction to man kind.
In order to avert this negative development, I now seek your permissionto
have you stand as the Next-Of-Kin Of . Engr Burke Sean so that the
funds US$ 20.5M (Twenty Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) would
be release and pay into your Bank Account as the Next Of Kin. This
is a deal between you and I only as all Documents and proofs to enable
you get this Fund will be carefully Worked out and more so I am, Assuring
you a 100% Risk Free Involvment in this deal. your share out of the
$20.5m depends on our agreement as we procceed with the deal. I will
also like to invest my own part of the money in your country with
your help after the transfer. If this Proposal is all right by you
then kindly get back to me by e-mailingme thanking you in anticipation
of your co-operation. I like if you visit this web site for more clarification
on clash. (http://ns.gov.gu/guam/index.html)
Mr. Favor Adim Duke
Accountant Inland Bank plc.
Attn: To Whom
It May Concern .
This letter is
not intended to cause any embarrassment in whatever form, rather it
is intended to contact your esteemed self, following the knowledge
of your high repute and trustworthiness.
Firstly, I must
solicit your confidentiality. I know that a proposal of this magnitude
will make anyone apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that
it is made in good faith and will be of mutual benefit. I am Barrister
Rotimi Adams, the personal attorney to Mr James Maxwell,herein after
referred to as my client, a national of your country, who until his
death was a major crude oil contractor with the federal government
My client and
his entire family were involved in a fatal motor accident, which unfortunately
claimed their lives, along the Sagamu express road, sparing none of
the occupants of the vehicle. I have since then made several enquiries
to your Embassy, in a bid to locate any relation of my client, and
these efforts of mine have not been productive. I then decided to
trace his last name over the Internet, and came across your name that
is why I have contacted you to assist me in securing the money and
property left behind by my client before they are declared as unclaimed
and unserviceable by the bank where they have been lodged for safekeeping.
I am particularly interested in securing the funds lodged with Global
Trust Bank Plc, totaling fiften Million, United States Dollar (USD15M).
This is because the said Bank has issued a notice to me, unequivocally
instructing me to produce the Next of Kin/Beneficiary to the said
account within the next ten official working days, or have the account
lack of success in my bid to locate his relatives for over two years,
I solicit your consent to enable me produce you as! The Next of Kin
to my deceased client, since you both bear the same last name. The
funds will then be transferred to you as the beneficiary and shared
according to a proposed sharing pattern /ratio of 70:30 i.e. 70% for
me and 30% for you. I will provide all the necessary legally obtained
documents to back up any claim we make regarding this process, and
will just require your understanding and cooperation to enable us
achieve success within a legitimate arrangement, eliminating any liability
resulting from any breach of the prevalent laws.
Your urgent response
will be highly appreciated; you can as well forward to me your Telephone
number immediately for more discussion, you could also reach me at:
email@example.com Thank you.
Who Are The People Named In The Emails?
In order to make these spam emails seem more real, the scammers
use a wide assortment of fake names, and at times also use the names of real
You just received an email from somebody - perhaps a barrister,
a relative of a deposed head of state, or a widow in distress - asking for
your help. The email may seem almost comical, containing childish spelling
and grammatical errors. The person who sent you the email claims to have an
enormous amount of cash - millions of dollars - but they can't get it out
of the country in which it is situated. If only you will assist them, they
will give you a considerable commission amounting to millions of dollars.
All they need is a good hearted person with a bank account, and...
It sounds "way too good to be true".... But
it is also awfully tempting. Isn't it? What's the possible harm if you reply....
But The Letter I Received Is From A Different
Please do not make the mistake of assuming that the same type
of offer from another country, such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast,
Liberia, Kenya, Senegal, Zaire, the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, or Sierra
Leone, or even European nations such as England or Spain, is legitimate. There
are people who operate the same type of fraud from a wide range of nations.
Also, some scammers who are located in Nigeria will lie about their location.
Please remember that this type of email is always fraudulent, no matter who sends it or where they claim to be from.
I Got The Same Type Of Letter, But By Fax
- Is That Different?
Prior to the rise of email, it was common for this type of
scammer to approach people by fax or even by regular mail. I am sure they
are working on a way to reach people by instant messenger. However they reach
you, they are trying to cheat you.
Another Example of a Scam Letter
The following is a sample spam letter from this particular scam:
|From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 7:20 AM
Subject: YOUR ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED
ASYLUM CAMP ABIDJAN
From: Markson Juliet/Kamara
ADDRESS. MOTHER THREASA CAMP ABIDJAN COTE D'IVOIRE
EMAIL ADDRESS. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I am markson Kamara the only son of late former Director of finance,
Chief Vincent R. Kamara of Sierra-Leone diamond and mining corporation.
I must confess my agitation is real, and my words are my bond in this
proposal. My late father diverted this fund acquired from the over
influencing of price of sales/purchasing of raw materials., now he
deposited the money with a BANK IN ABIDJAN BY FIXED DEPOSIT FORM,
where I am residing under political asylum with my younger sister
Juliet who is 17 years old. Now the war in my country is overwith
the help of ECOMOG soldiers, the present government of Sierra Leone
has revoked the passport of all officers who served under the former
regime and now ask countries to expel such person at the same time,
freeze their account and confiscate their assets, it is on this note
that I am contacting you, all I needed from you is to furnish me with
your bank particulars:
1) Bank name
2) Account name
3) Account number
4) Bank address, telephone and fax numbers to enable me transfer this
money in your private bank account, the said amount is tweenty Six
Million United States Dollars (US$26.000.000.00).
I am compensating you with 20% of the total money amount, now all
my hope is banked on you and I really want to invest this money in
your country, where there is stability of Government, political and
economic welfare. Honestly I want you to believe that this transaction
is real and never a joke. My late father Chief Kamara gave me the
photocopy of the deposit certificate issued to him by the BANK IN
ABIDJAN on the date of deposit, and he called me closer to his bed
side before his call to glory (R.I.P) that I should pray to God first,
before contacting any foreigner and he warned me strictly not to deal
with a greedy and evil minded people since this is the only legacy
we are inheriting from him.
Please, for you to be clarified because, I do not expose myself to
anybody I see, I believe that you are able to keep this transaction
secret for me because this money is the hope of my life, it is important.
Please contact me immediately after you must have gone through my
message, and feel free to make it urgent. That is the reason why I
offered you 20 % of the total amount, and in case of any other necessary
expenses you might incure during this transaction including your telephone
N.B: Try and negotiate for me some profitable blue chip investment
opportunities which is risk free that I can invest with this money
when it is transferred to your account, and you will be our guardian,
personally I am interested in estate management and hotel business,
please advise me. Contact me immediately you receive this message
for more explanation. And promise me and Juliet my younger sister
to be a father considering our situation and not to betray us please.
Thanks and God bless
Markson / Juliet Kamara
NB: my late father used me the only son as the beneficiary / next
of kin on theday of deposit and also told me that I need an assistance
of a foreigner with alegitimate bank Account abroad who will stand
as co-beneficiary and partner abroad.