We have several thousand emails from creatures all over the world who have taken time from their busy schedules to attempt to relieve us of some cash. As interesting as they aren’t to read, we have read them nevertheless and have noticed certain traits and characteristics which many of them have in common.
We would like to share some of our rambling observations as to why we fail to believe these emails.
The first tell-tale sign is the address.
Most all legitimate emails will arrive in your inbox addressed, more or less, to email@example.com, where yourname is, quite obviously, your name and similarly yourprovider.com will be whoever provides your email service, or in simpler terms the email will come to you at your email address.
This seems simple enough, yes?
Very few persons use the pseudonym Undisclosed-Recipients although the bulk of fraudulent emails we receive insist that that is our name. Many of the others simply are addressed to “To:”, no name, just “To:”.
Even the real spam, ads from annoying creatures who think they’re going to get rich by blasting ads on behalf of someone else, even these emails generally come to our own correct email address.
This is usually so that they can pretend to be playing by the rules that our governmental cretins have set up for the spammers’ benefit under the guise of protecting us. You’ve seen them with their “This is not spam – Click here to unsubscribe – yada yada yada“.
It is only those fools who have come to give us millions of dollars, pounds, and Uzbekistani bottle caps who don’t know who we are.
In review then, it is fair to say that most emails to you which are legitimate come to you and most that are not are addressed “Occupant“.
The second tell-tale sign that something might be rotten in Denmark comes in the greeting.
These are a few greetings we have received from legitimate email sources:
“Hi EllisTyd,” from Ebay.
“Dear Ellis Tyd,” from a credit card company.
“Hello, Ellis,” from a legitimate organization.
“Dear Ellis Tyd, ” from a company from whom we have purchased things.
“Dear Ellis, ” from my son’s former university (begging for money, but at least being up front about their begging)
Many others, such as newsletters and advertisements get right to the point and skip the formal greeting altogether, but still are addressed to “ellistyd@….” and not to “To Whom it may concern”.
Our more mischievous correspondents, on the other hand begin as follows:
“Dear customer“, from an alleged credit card company sent to “firstname.lastname@example.org“. Which, when last we checked, wasn’t us.
“Dear Customer,” allegedly from AOL and sent to “”, which is not an alias we have used in recent memory, and as we have an AOL email account, they generally do know who we are.
“Attn:” sent to no one.
“Hello,” to undisclosed-recipients.
As you can see, for the most part, legitimate emails will generally refer to you by name and the illegitimate ones will just take the “Dear Occupant” approach.
The next tell-tale sign is the general content of the email.
As very few legitimate businesses send plain text emails, opting instead for HTML ads, it’s hard to gather text from the messages themselves, here are a few:
To help you keep track of your purchases, we’re sending you this order update. From Ebay about an actual order.
We have shipped your Ebay item. Also from Ebay about an order.
Hi, you’re receiving this message because you expressed interest in receiving email from RepairClinic.com. From repairclinic.com (obviously), from whom we have purchased things.
Most emails from stores are HTML advertisements which mimic the style and layout of the actual business web sites. They don’t generally say hello or anything, they just show products and links.
On the other hand, scammers generally take a different approach altogether:
I’m Hon. William Bedcork, the Chief Executive Officer of the Minister of Finance. Thanks for sharing that with us, we will sleep better now that that’s been cleared up.
This is to draw your attention that following my recent appointment as Minister of Finance and Economic planning of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, … We did not know that, thanks for pointing it out.
How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family? You may not understand why this mail came to you. Present. Yes, it is. You’re right, we don’t.
Hello Dear Beloved Friend, I pray this message meets you in good condition….I am Mrs Aamira Barkah Aftaab, I Am from Malaysia. The message seems in good condition. We, on the other hand, are a bit frayed around the edges today, thanks for asking.
Hello,I have a $25million business proposition for you. Please reply me for details. This was the entire email. We couldn’t find a definition for the word reply where having me as the object would make sense grammatically.
You have funds payment of $1.5 Million from U.N Do send your Name, Address & Phone Number to Franca Lee. This was also the entire email. As we have written previously; Franca Lee, my dear, we don’t give a damn.
Yet another tell-tale sign that something may be amiss is how well you get to know your opponent during your brief email encounter.
We do not know who writes the ads for Sears, Best Buy, or any of the other retailers who email us. Just as we do not know who writes the emails to tell us that our bank statement is ready, or that a payment is due or that fresh corn is six for two dollars starting next week at the grocer’s.
Then again, we don’t need to really, do we?
On the other hand we do know that:
Mrs. Aamira was “diagnose with cancer of Esophagus about a year and six months now, since then I have undergone series of treatment and surgery to get rid of it, but is sad story to me that all the effort and money spent have not help. The resent series of lab test proved that it has resulted to the growth of tumor in the lining of my esophagus. The doctor says it has grown through the walls of my esophagus although I did really understand all this are medical terms. They said it has spread to all the organs of my body through my blood system. I have been experiencing heartburn’s, difficulty in swallowing solid foods. It is really painful for me to swallow food. Sometimes, the food stuck to my esophagus. I have lost weight. You need to see how slim I have become. There are times I Vomit blood when I cough. It is really painful living my life like this. The doctors said that I have less than two months as a result of health condition, adding that it will be determined by my upcoming surgery which my chances of surviving is 30% as mentioned by them. I am crying as I write this email to you while lying here on the hospital bed. I have so much confidence in you.”
We think that this is too much information.
We also learned that:
Mrs Elizabeth Dipuo Peters is a “visually impaired Widow, a mother of two children and former Premier of the Northern Cape Province (22 April 2004 – 10 May 2009) under the auspices of the President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, and now elected as a Minister of Energy of the Republic of South Africa since 11 May 2009.”
Again we are not sure what good knowing this does us.
We were also surprised, but completely disinterested, to learn that:
MR JOHN MORGAN OWNED TWO OIL WELL AND ONE REFINERY and is married to MRS HELEN MORGAN. She works with the UNITED NATIONS GOVERMENT.
We were stunend to learn that:
Steven Berks Esq Esq was the personal attorney to Late Roger Wright the CEO of Arsenal Investimentos whom died in a plane crash on the 22nd May 2009.
and so on and so on and so on.
We have also learned that diplomatic couriers are stacking up like cord wood at “your international airport“, which for some unknown reason is usually either in Orlando or in Jacksonville, which, when last we checked, was a pretty God awful commute from Boston. It’s around twelve hundred miles, we’d be better off flying there.
We also learned that these diplomats have been detained by FBI/CIA/Local police/Red Hat Ladies/Boy Scouts/vagrants and others for not being aware that they were carrying coffins full of money which scanners detected and that they were on their way to our house with the money before they lost our name and address or had our name and address confiscated.
We’ve learnt that there are many rich women whose husbands embezzled money, or over invoiced government contracts and then fell sick and died after four days leaving them as widows after twenty years of marriage without a child and also with many untrustworthy in-laws who want to get their ungodly hands on the proceeds from the embezzled funds which we should give to motherless babies homes.
Countless others are sick in hospitals around the world with various cancers which will kill them at any second and are secretly typing to us, while crying, from their hospital beds in the hope that we can find a charity for them to give their money to because no one around them has any suggestions. Either that or there are no charities in their country worth dealing with.
The children of nearly all recently disposed despots are also on the run; laptops, smart phones and large caches of cash in hand, desperately seeking someone to help them get their father’s money into safer hands.
One of the more blatant tell-tale signs is the amount of information that they request.
When we receive notice from a legitimate source that they need something from us, money, credit card number, phone number, etc., they usually ask us to log in to their website and enter it.
They almost never provide a link for us to use.
The reason for this is that if we have been dealing with them we should know where to go and how to log in. By making us type the address in to a browser or by using a favorite link we may have saved, we can be fairly certain that the site is the real site and not a copy made for the purpose of deceiving us.
They almost always remind us that they will never ask for our login information.
Our miscreants, when pretending to a bank or such, will always provide one or more clickable links for “our convenience” in order to assure that we will end up in the wrong place.
If you have the status bar displayed in your email client or browser there is a way to get an idea about the legitimacy of the provided link. Hover your mouse over this link and look at the status bar at the bottom of your browser. Even when the link might claim to be http://www.WarmAndFriendlyPlace.com, the status bar knows the truth.
Even if you click either of the links above, they don’t go anywhere as of this time, and should they in the future, they would go to a place you certainly wouldn’t want to visit.
The address bar of the browser will show you that you’ve gone somewhere you don’t belong.
If you need to log into an account for any reason, do it the way you normally do. It’s generally best not to click links like that in emails, even though some legitimate companies do provide them.
The other thing is that the legitimate companies already have your information.
Their systems didn’t get deleted. They haven’t had a massive data purge.
If they need you to supply them with something, they will generally contact you via other means. And if you think about it, if all their information about you got wiped out so that they had no way to contact you at all, why, or perhaps better, how would they send you an email asking you to provide the information if they no longer know who you are?
As unfair as it might seem, if our mortgage company told us that they had no record of us and asked us if we still owed them any money, we would be obliged to ank, “Do we know you?”.
Most of the clowns claiming that they represent lotteries will state that they only know our email address as that is how we were picked. We have asked many of them what the email address was which won, using a different email address to send the question, and they have been 100% unsuccessful in providing the correct response.
The last tell-tale is the level of banking technology required to complete the transaction.
When we pay bills, we generally use checks or electronic transfers.
When large corporations pay bills, they generally use checks or electronic transfers.
In other parts of the world, it seems that Western Union wire transfers and ATM cards are the preferred method of sending large amounts of money; well, those, cardboard boxes, consignement boxes and diplomatic packages.
ATM cards are traditionally a method for withdrawing money from an account. One does not normally load say twenty-five million dollars onto an ATM card, except in Africa and other parts of the world. There, it seems, to be the norm.
We inquired, last year, as to the cost to ship a small refrigerator from California to Massachusetts, we were told it would be around $175.
We recently received a new ATM card from our bank. It cost then a whole $0.45 to send it to us. They used, gasp, the US postal system to send it.
We are usually told that the XYZ Courier company, where our ATM card has been placed for safekeeping, can deliver it safely to us for a paltry three of four hundred dollars, which we should wire, via Moneygram or Western Union to a transfer specialist in western Africa somewhere who will deliver the money to the courier so that our ATM card can begin its journey.
Of course, we also will have to provide a mailing address, as our benefactor(s) seem to have mislaid our actual name and address, but we can rest assured that the money is truthfully and rightfully ours, as long as the fees are paid, within three days, or they’ll have to card storage, as ATM cards take up a lot of space, in warehouses, belonging to courier companies, in west Africa, or so it would seem.
We also had one person who kept saying that they were sending us an ATM.
We told them a check would suffice, or better still, the phone number of the issuing bank so we could call and say that we’d lost the card and could they mail us a new one. That has always worked out well with our bank.
We never heard back.
We’ve rambled long enough.
In summary, let’s review.
A typical legitimate email will come to you from a company you know, will tell you something or try to sell you something, thank you and leave. They will generally be written clearly and concisely and in most cases will be free from grammatical and typographical errors. Rarely will they be only text.
A scam email will probably be addressed to occupant, or a variant thereof, read like a depressing dime store novel, or sometimes a spy thriller. It will ask you for your life history, bank account numbers credit card numbers, copies of your passport, etc. It warn you that you need to send money quickly and promise that great fortunes are yours to be had as soon as you pay the fees.
They will be mostly text and written in a style reminiscent of a drunken monkey tap dancing on a keyboard in the dark.
The language will mimic your native tongue, but will be free from the restrictions placed on most written works by the draconian rules of grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation.
Use your common sense. If the letter came from someone who had difficulty spelling
cta tca tac cat, it is highly unlikely that they have been entrusted with thirty million dollars on the promise that they deliver it safely to you.
That is all.
I have one problem which sometimes tricks me–but never to the point where I mess up. It is only momentary but does disturb me. That is when some scammer gets ahold of my email list of friends and sends an email addressed from a real friend. I am only fooled by the fact that when I open the email, all that is there is a link, but it still bothers me.
Thanks for a great overview!
I’ve seen them, too. It’s hard to tell how they get the names. I’ve seen Facebook accounts get hacked and gotten emails that way as well. I usually send the person an email telling them that they’ve been hacked. Usually others have let them know the same, so they can change their passwords, but the address list is in the wind at that point. Sadly, it’ll never end. Glad you liked the post. Thanks.
Thanks–good idea–I will let her know! and you are welcome. I always like your posts.
Best wishes, jean