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Fun with scamming the email scammers

So many email scams, so little time.

Fake "phishing" emails that purport to be from your bank, trying to sucker you into giving up your account information. Nigerian princes' and ministers' sons, South African barristers representing rich, dead clients, Russian oligarchs -- all anxious and eager to share found riches with you, to cut you in on a piece of a sure thing.

The only sure thing is that you're sure to be ripped off.

The Internet has made fraud as easy as the click of a mouse. It’s a vicious and heartless business and it's evidently defrauded loads of Americans. Emails are free, and all it takes is one email recipient out of 10,000 to "bite" and make it profitable.

In one kind of scam, the thief steals someone's e-address book and sends out email blasts to colleagues, friends, relatives -- everyone in the address book -- begging for help with a hard-luck story. (One woman I know had her address book hijacked; I realized this because she would never try to sell me Viagra via email, as the scammer was.)

One scam email just sent to me, using the name of a well-established PR person, had myriad holes just begging to be poked at. And so I poked a little.

Just for starters, the real person whose name appeared on the email would never make so many absurd errors in spelling, grammar and syntax. The Western Union office the email referenced turned out to be in a beauty parlor (thank you, Google). And anyone who's so much as checked into a Motel 6 knows you can't rent a room without leaving a credit card on deposit, in case the guest or the credit card disappears. And nowadays, all you'd have to do is cross-check the sender's Facebook page to see that he or she is just fine, thanks. 

The last time I got one of these, purportedly from a renowned Los Angeles resident asking -- like this current scammer -- for help getting him out of London, I just picked up the phone and called him at his office, right here in L.A., to let him know that someone was gaming his name.

None of this latest scam email passes the faintest smell test –- I'm sure you'll enjoy finding your own scam "stinkers" here -- but I gather people still fall for these.

I wondered how long I could keep the scammer on an e-string before he or she would give up trying to milk some dough out of me, and move on to someone else, counting on the recipient recognizing the name and kindly responding to a desperate plea without investigating further.

Moral of the story: if your mother emails that she loves you, tell her you love her, too. But if she emails you that she needs money, check it out.

Here is our little exchange:



I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,I and my family came down here to London,United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately we got mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,wallet,credit card and cell were stolen off us,but luckily for us we still have our passport back in our hotel room.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight is leaving in few hours from now but we're having problems settling our hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills,We're freak out at the moment.

[stolen name here]


I am sorry to hear this. What is the name of the hotel, and the phone number, and your room number?  Please let me know who you spoke to at the embassy – I have several friends there. Which airline are you taking, and which flight number?



Glad you replied back, We have nothing left on us right now but we're lucky to have our passports with us, it would have been worst if they had made away with our passports. Our return flight is leaving in the next few hours from now as i earlier told you and we don't want to miss it,all we owe the hotel is just $2,850 USD to settle our bills at the hotel and get a cab to the Airport including feeding,but we'll appreciate whatsoever you can afford to loan us right now. Once the bills have been taken care of then we will quickly catch our return flight back home safely.You can have it wired to my name via Western union b'cos I'll have to show my passport as an ID to pick it up here and Western Union is 3blocks away from the hotel where we're staying. I promise to refund back as soon as we made it home safely.Here's my info below...

Name.. [stolen name here]




Once you're done with it, kindly get back with the MTCN confirmation number including sender's first and last name and amount you sent,so our mind can be at rest. We owe you alot. Reply ASAP. Thank You.

[stolen name here]


I would have to deal directly with the hotel, not Western Union. I don’t find the hotel online nor in my London hotel guide. What is the telephone number, and your room number?  And what airline and flight number are you taking?



Glad you replied back, i just spoke to the hotel secretary if they accept credit card over the phone but she told me they don't , i will advise you to get it done by searching for a nearby WU outlet close to you or over the phone by calling WU or logon to www.westernunion.com, choose the present location you are at the moment and the location you are sending the money to :- United Kingdom, select money in minutes option and then create an account to continue. Note:You Can call the hotel via +447024051293. Once you are done with it, kindly get back with the MTCN confirmation number including sender's first and last name and amount you sent,so our mind can be at rest. We owe you a lot. Reply ASAP. Thank you.


I see. As I said, I'd have to do this directly through the hotel. Perhaps I could ask one of my many London friends to go to the hotel with a credit card in person – unfortunately, it's past midnight there now and I can't wake them up to do this. Let me know the hotel name and address and phone and your room number, and I can contact my friends in the morning.  Unfortunately that means you would have to spend the night there and miss your flight. What airline is it again? And do tell me who you spoke to at the Embassy and I'll try emailing my Embassy friends about your situation to see what they can do. Your passport number would be helpful in making that happen, so please do send that along, too.



Glad you replied back,Well i really appreciate all your effort concerning my predicament,But just all your possible best the get the cash wire to me online by calling western union or logon www.westernunion.com and get the money wired online..I promise to refund all your money as soon as we get back home safely b/cos we seriously freaked out at the  moment..I promise to pay all your money back including the transfer charges as soon as we get back home safely..I CROSS MY HEART. We owe you a lot. Reply ASAP. Thank you.

[stolen name here]


I understand that but this is the only way I can help.


OMG!! ..But remember that we met to help each order..bye


--Patt Morrison


Comments () | Archives (4)

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Once, I was selling an x-box 360 on e-bay and a scammer contacted me and told me that he would pay more than my asking price. Under his arrangement, I would send him the package using his UPS label (prepaid) and western union would wire me the money automatically upon confirmation of receipt. I contacted western union who said they provide no such service. So I decided to send the guy a package full of rocks using his prepaid UPS account. Hope it cost him a bundle.

John Black

I have gotten emails several times while trying to sell a used car on Ebay or AutoTrader. The gist is that they would like to send me a Cashiers Check for more than the asking price and they want me to wire the difference immediately, purportedly for the shipper to arrange shipment of my vehicle. I know this is a scam and just like to jerk their chain some, so I tell them to send me the Cashiers Check and I will take it to my bank, place a hold on it for 14 days, knowing this is fraud, and when the check clears I will wire them the difference, which of course I won't caus' it's fraud. This forces a few frantic emails that I need to wire the difference immediately upon receipt of the 'fraudlent' cashiers check. So I play along for a few more emails and finally when I tire of the reparte, I tell them emphatically that they will get no money from me by wire transfer until 14 days after their Cashier's Check has cleared, upon which I get a similar reply as above, in frustration!! Gotta love the scammers!!


This is the Kalifornia unionized government worker scam.

This is what public employees do while they are "working"

Mitchell Young

Good on Ms. Morrison for typing up some of this scammer's time.

One scam to be aware of because it is much more 'plausible' than others and because it is directed at people who can be vulnerable, even a bit desperate, is the 'really good rental' scam. It's doubly effective because the 'mark' initiates in -- in a sense -- themselves. The scammers place ads in sites like Craig's list or Gumtree (London) or whatever the local 'for rent' board is. The ad will be for a place significantly, but not totally unbelievably, below the market rate for comparable apartments/flats.

When the desperate but hopeful potential renter answers, the story is something like "I have to come from X foreign country (or state) to show the place, so to hold the place, and to be sure you are serious, you need to send X amount via Western Union to see it." Having had several times to look for flats in crowded and expensive markets, I've always found this scam particularly reprehensible -- playing as it does not on pure greed, but on one of peoples' basic needs, for shelter.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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