Ridiculous Spam Friday II: The Squeakquel.

The ludicrous spam just keeps on rolling in! I decided to run a second installment of Ridiculous Spam Friday this week.

No, I am not paying tribute to the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies with the title of today’s post. They’re terrible. I now tack the words “The Squeakquel” onto everything that’s a “part two” in a series because it cracks me up. Rocky II: The Squeakquel. See? Hilarious.

Anyway, here are three more examples of spam I received this past week. The crooks in this first case are hardly trying. Just like the people who made the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Ba-zing!

From: Support <Laura.Ferelli@service.amazon.com>
Date: Sunday, February 28, 2010 1:31 PM
To: <email address>
Subject: Confirm Order #05830659

Your Order Id:153517648031959 Accepted.
Details

Thank you.
Amazon.com Customer Service

The word “Details” was linked to a website in Romania. I’m no expert on Amazon’s server setup, but I’m pretty sure their website isn’t hosted in Romania. I’m also completely certain it will have the word “Amazon” in the URL, no matter where it is hosted.

Here’s one that uses a real name and email address from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Everything else about it is fake:

From: Nespeca, Mark MD
Date: Monday, March 01, 2010 3:26 AM
To: chan@hotmail.com
Subject: You Have A Pick Up

Greetings,

You have a consignment containing a bank draft of 450,000.00 United States Dollars and gift items which await an outstanding payment of $240 .

For claims, Please confirm your ful name, home address, and telephone number with Mr. Garry Moore. Contact email and phone number are

tnt-services@admin.in.th and (+234) 802 378 8093 respectively.

Thank you.

Miss Margaret Hagopian

Of course, this is a pretty typical “Lottery Scam” setup. As often happens, there is some disagreement about who is sending the message. Is it Mark Nespeca (who apparently is a real doctor)? Is it Gary Moore? Miss Margaret Hagopian? Also, why would you be contacting a company in Thailand (.th) for something involving a hospital in San Diego? Nothing here makes sense at all. I’m sure $240 is just the tip of the iceberg. By the time you wired $8,000 overseas, you’d probably begin to suspect something.

I’ve noticed more scams and spam using real names and email addresses from real businesses lately. The thing is, their choices seldom make any sense. Why would a children’s hospital be giving you nearly half a million dollars out of the blue?

Our final contestant today is doing the exact same thing with another healthcare-related business (this time with Continuum Health Partners, based in New York, I believe). This time, it’s Nicholas “Patrick Chan” Romas, MD, Director of Hang Sang Bank. The offer isn’t some crummy $450,000, though:

From: Nicholas Romas, MD
Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:31 AM
To: chan45@8u8.com
Subject:

Dear friend,

Greetings to you.

I’m Mr.Patrick Chan, Director of Hang Seng Bank.  I am contacting you because I have a 42 million

dollars business proposal for you. For details, contact me confidentailly at  p.chan45@8u8.com

Thank you

Mr. Patrick Chan

Business Proposal

This message and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are prohibited from printing, copying, forwarding, saving, or otherwise using or relying upon them in any manner.  Please notify the sender immediately if you have received this message by mistake and delete it from your system.

Name confusion, geographic confusion, it’s all here. The confidentiality notice at the bottom is a cute touch, too. It makes it look like you’re getting some kind of secret information that’s going to help you get your mitts on $42 million.

All three of these are similar, insofar as they’re using the names of real companies to lure victims. I’ll also bet you a buck fifty those last two come from the same person or persons. One has chan@hotmail.com in the recipient line and the other has chan45@8u8.com. Too similar to be a coincidence.

I don’t know exactly what these people are trying to accomplish with these messages. The first one looks like a malware attempt, and the other two are lottery-style scams. I’m not pursuing them to find out! As always, delete with extreme prejudice.

“Super Seven Contest” Lottery Scam, Universal Trust and Finance Inc.

On Tuesday, a REGIONAL member brought a letter and a check to one of our offices. It was quickly determined that it was an example of a Lottery Scam.

Below is the full text:

UNIVERSAL TRUST AND FINANCE INC
INTERNATIONAL CLAIM DEPARTMENT
2065 KING STREET MORRISTON
ONT N0B 2C3
OFFICE HOURS:M-F:8AM-9PM,SAT:8AM-6PM

JANUARY 08, 2010.

NOTICE OF UNCLAIMED WINNINGS

CLAIM NUMBER: UTF 447734

This is to find out why you have not claimed the money which you won in the SUPER SEVEN CONTEST.
You are one of the second category Winners of the money Super Seven Contest held on the 3rd of OCTOBER 2009.
A ticket with serial no.461209 posted in your name drew the lucky winning numbers. This entitles you to the lump sum winning of $250,000.00 to be sent to you once the taxes on it has been paid.
Enclosed is a check of $4885.00 which was deducted from your winnings.
The sole purpose of this FIRST CHECK is for the payment of the applicable GOVERNMENT TAXES on your winnings.
The tax amount is $2985.00 to be paid through MONEYGRAM found at every WALMART store or any WESTERN UNION in any convenient store.
You will receive your tax information from your Claim Agent TOM HOWARD.

Please do not attempt to use this check until you call. We urge you to keep this winning CONFIDENTIAL until your claim has been processed and your cash remitted to you as this is part of your security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by non participants taking advantage of this program.
You are advised to contact the claim agent immediately for further clarification as indicated below within 10days.

You are to contact him at 1-647-686-5687 as soon as you receive this letter.

Congratulations!

Yours truly,

[signature]

MORRIS LEXINGTON
President

The check was indeed made out to the member for $4,885, and as far as I could tell (I’m still learning how to do it), the fractional routing number agreed with what was in the MICR line. I haven’t had a chance to seen the actual item yet, but I’m willing to guess it was printed on legitimate stock with all the security features intact.

However, there are a number of clues that you’re looking at a Lottery Scam. Ready?

  1.  The address given for the company is in Canada. There’s a reason “Canadian Lottery” is one of the terms used for this type of scam.
  2. The check is drawn off Phoenix Air, a cargo airline based in Cartersville, GA.
  3. You can’t see it here, but the signature did not look anything like “Morris Lexington.” In fact, it looked like “Paul” and something that ended with a B.
  4. They’re talking about a large cash prize in a contest the recipient never entered. You have to buy a ticket to win a lottery.
  5. When you pay taxes, you pay the government. You don’t use Moneygram or Western Union to wire the funds to a private organization.
  6. The spacing and grammar are weird throughout the letter.
  7. When you win any sort of lottery, applicable fees are taken out beforehand. They don’t send you money only to have you wire it back to them (even if they did, wouldn’t you also be taxed on the original $4,885, too?).
  8. They’re instructing the recipient not to tell anyone about their winnings. This is a massive warning sign. They don’t want their potential victims talking about the letter because they don’t want any better-informed people telling them, “Um, that’s a scam.”

There are probably another ten things I could point out, but if you know what to look for, the fact that you’re being told you won a Canadian contest you didn’t enter in the first place will tell you everything you need to know. Point #8 above is a very common feature of these scams—the attempt to isolate the potential victim from outside advice. This tactic seems to really target the elderly, who often aren’t as “hip” to the latest fraud trends. Make sure you inform your family and friends about these scams, especially those who don’t use the Internet or pay much attention to the news. Had they fallen for it, our member would have lost at least $2,985, and possibly more. Nobody needs that in their life.Incidentally, I Googled the phone number in the letter. Apparently the owner of that phone is also trying to hawk some computers and/or parts in online classifieds. That probably goes to show something about online classifieds, but we’ll get into that another time.

United Way of Central Indiana sweepstakes scam.

File this one under, “Well, that was an odd choice.”

Apparently, people are receiving letters (which claim to be) from the United Way of Central Indiana that inform them they’ve won some sort of sweepstakes, but they have to pay taxes on the prize before they can claim it.

The letters include a check for $3,200, which recipients are (you will not be surprised by this) instructed to cash, then wire the funds to an account.

It’s the same old Lottery Scam, with a new twist: how stupid was it for these clowns to use the United Way?

Here’s the deal: The United Way is a non-profit charitable organization. As such, they are in the business of raising money to support local causes that vary by location, depending on the specific need. Also as such, they’re probably eternally strapped for cash. One of the things you’ll never hear a representative from a charity say is, “Oh, things are great! Money is just pouring in. In fact, we’ve really got too much of it right now!” Seriously—have you ever heard anyone say this?

Therefore, one of the things eternally cash-strapped charitable organizations don’t do is give away thousands of dollars to random people.

See, that’s the opposite of raising money. If they give ten thousand dollars to some random jerk, that’s just ten thousand dollars more they have to raise to replace it. Most likely one dollar at a time at fast food drive-through windows and supermarket check-out lanes.

The thing is, most people know that charities don’t operate in this way, so it’s sort of a weird choice for whoever is running this scam.

However, I also know there are some people who will get this check and wonder if it’s for real. I hope your search has led you here and I’ve helped you make an informed decision to not cash this check.

By the way, it appears that there are some people out there who have a problem with the United Way itself. Comments about how you personally don’t like the organization will be deleted with extreme prejudice. This is not the forum for it. I’m talking about a scam that uses the United Way of Central Indiana’s name and logo, not the politics or the structure of the real thing. Got me?

Scam Alert: Microsoft Awards 2009

Here’s one that seems to mostly circulate around Europe, but I’m sure some folks here stateside have ended up with this message in their inbox, too:

Microsoft Lottery Promotion
Unit 7, Metro Trading Centre,
Second Way, Wembley, Middlesex,
HA9 0YU – United Kingdom

DATE: 14th of March 2009

Microsoft Lottery! E-mail is pleased to announce you as one of the 10
lucky winners in the ongoing Microsoft E-mail Promotions.

Microsoft Lottery! is a free service that does not require you to register
or be a Microsoft registered user before winning.

This award program is conducted anually to promote the use of the
Internet.You have been awarded ONE MILLION GREAT BRITAIN POUNDS.

To file for your claim, do contact our accredited corresponding claims
agent as below for category “A” winners immediately with your Name and
Phone Number for the speedy release of your fund;

AGENT: Gabriel Phillip
EMAIL: g.phil.@live.com
Tel: +44 703 5963368

Warning!!! Winners that do not respond to this notice within seven days of
receiving this E-mail will authomatically be disqalified.

FOR VERIFICATION, PLEASE REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE WITHOUT MODIFYING THE SUBJECT.

There is no need to include any additional information in your reply.

Regards

Notification Department
Microsoft On-line Email Draws

Let me make this perfectly clear: This is a scam. Éste es fraude. C’est une escroquerie. Dieses ist ein Betrug. Ciò è un raggiro. This is a scam, innit, guv’ner?

(By the way, I used Babelfish for those translations. English is the only language I speak reliably well. If I’ve said something bizarre in your native tongue, please correct me.)

More specifically, this just is a variation on the old advance fee fraud. If you respond, you’ll be instructed to wire money or send a cashier’s check to someone. Then you’ll never hear from them again. Just like with a lottery scam.

As it turns out, Microsoft does give away awards every year. However, they give them to people like Peer Bork from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, not randomly to people like you and me (to be somewhat blunt about it). Unless you happen to be a research scientist of some renown, in which case you might be in the running for 2010.

But even then, they’re not going to notify you by email and say “Winners that do not respond to this notice within seven days of receiving this E-mail will authomatically be disqalified.” For one thing, Microsoft knows how to spell “automatically” and “disqualified.”

For another, they give their awards to people who are doing notable work and advancing knowledge. It’s not a random giveaway.

But seriously folks, what is the deal with wiring money?

Looking back over the different types of fraud and scams I’ve been covering these past few months (and the ones I’m going to cover soon), I can’t help but notice that an inordinate amount of them involve wiring money.

Mystery Shopper Scams: the victim wires money to the thief.

Grandparent Telephone Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.

Craigslist Overpayment Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.

Job Interview Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.

Lottery Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.

So this has me thinking…what is the deal with wiring money? There just seems to be an aroma of seediness around the whole industry.

I’m not trying to throw Western Union under the bus here. I know the vast majority of people are using it and similar services for legitimate reasons, but still. Why is it so easy to commit crimes using money-wiring services, and could providers do anything to make it less so?

In all honesty, probably not. The crook is the one committing a crime. The victim is just wiring money, which you can pretty much do at will. It’s not a crime to fall for a scam. Limiting users’ ability to wire funds would just create extra hassle for customers and drive down business.

So that means it’s on you to not become a victim in the first place. Be knowledgeable about different types of scams. Most of all, just think before you act.

For example, I can’t think of a single legitimate case in which someone would mail you a cashier’s check and ask you to cash it, then wire money back to them. If someone is telling you to do this, it is a scam. 100% of the time. Just take that as a general rule, and you’ll reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

By the way, you didn’t win the lottery

Here’s a good rule of thumb when deciding how to respond to a potentially fraudulent email message, letter, telephone call or other type of communication: if a stranger walked up to you on the street and said the exact same thing, would you believe them?

For example, you’re walking down the street when a random guy in a shabby gray suit approaches you. He says, “Greetings, I am a foreign dignitary currently in exile and would like to ask for your assistance in transferring my fortune into the United States, totaling 250 million USD. If you help, I will let you keep 25% of that amount. I will need your checking account number to complete this process.”

You’d tell the clown to get lost.

Or perhaps he says, “Congratulations! You have been selected in the Canadian lottery as the top prizewinner! In order to claim your prize of 2.5 million USD, please give me a cashier’s check for $2,945.23 to cover taxes and other fees.”

Unless you’re very gullible, your reaction would be the same.

I know that the economy isn’t good at the moment. You might be facing layoffs, reduction in pay, or worse. Your employer might be going out of business completely. You get an email that promises instant riches and it seems like all your prayers have been answered.

These thieves know that. That’s why they’re in the fraud business to begin with. They’re counting on your sleepless nights of worrying about where you’re going to get the money to make it. And they’re only going to make your situation worse.

You have to keep your guard up. Imagine that offer coming from a stranger on the street, and you will instantly see through it.