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June 08, 2006

An Iraqi 419er (Probably Not From Iraq)

I've heard of 419 scams posing as appeals from U.S. military personnel in Iraq, but I usually like to see one in the flesh before commenting.

I didn't have to wait long.

I'll repeat the plain text body of the message (Subject: INSIGHT) in its entirety and add my two cents in various places in [brackets].

Dear Friend, [You know me that well, eh?]
My name is, Major. James Negron [Why the period after "Major"? Is it an abbreviation for Majorette?] and i represent a faction of American soldiers [I thought the "factions" were on the other side],serving in the military of the 1st Armored Division in Iraq, we came across your e-mail address(s) [Yes, I have multiple e-mail addresss.] in the process of research and enquiry into an immense millitary global data base. [I strongly doubt that any military (or millitary) database has my email address in it. Maybe the NSA, but not the military.] I believe you are familiar with the war situation in Iraq ? [Hmm, let me think....] Besides the killings, a lot of activities do occur; antique sales, stocked foreign cash discovery and lots more. We are lucratively involved in these activities, myself and my colleagues want to send consignments out of iraq, which will be discussed upon your acceptance of this transaction and we require a worthy,upright and business minded individual for safe keeping outside the Iraqi state. [What better way to find such an individual than sending out random email messages to "Friends."] You might have an insight through;http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2988455.stm [Wow, hundreds of millions of dollars uncovered...this is real news! Oh, the article is three years old.] and details will be sent upon signal of interest. [I'll let you know through the Signal Corps.] Our contact email ; [removed]@virgilio.it [That's an Italian address, and so is the computer from which this message was sent.] Thanks for your co-operation
BSN2410. [??]
Major. J. NEGRON [This capitalization of the name is a sure sign of a non-American author.]

So, what is this scam?

It is most likely the foreign check scam, in which someone sends you a check from a foreign bank. You are supposed to deposit it in your local bank account and wire by Western Union, say, 80% of the total to someone in another country. Your take is supposed to be 20%. Not a bad deal for doing next to nothing.

The problem is that even if you wait for the bank to tell you that the check has "cleared," it really hasn't. A few weeks later you learn that the check you deposited was made from the same material used for the Wham-O Superball. The bank wants its money NOW. You have no recourse, even though the bank told you the check had cleared. You are screwed.

I believe the most despicable part of this scam is that it preys on the sympathy that Americans (pro- and anti-Iraq War alike) have for the soldiers who are on the front line of battle. Who wouldn't want to help a soldier reaching out to someone back home? It is precisely that kind of emotional appeal that scammers use to cloud your judgement and sweeten that which should fail the "smell test" on several accounts.

Maybe we should send a brigade of the 1st Armored Division after these scammers. Now there's a war I think everyone could get behind.

UPDATE (4:25pm): Just got another one from "Major. Jeffrey Burton" with the exact same message, but different Italian contact address. Now I wonder if the scammer is reading this blog, because the "signature" line has the last name in all lowercase letters: "Major. J.burton". As they say in the chat rooms: lol.

Posted on June 08, 2006 at 08:58 AM