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Anatomy of an E-mail Scam

Author:  Jason Jacobs
Date:  2008.04.08
Topic:  Misc Mod
Provider:  TechwareLabs
Manufacturer:  TechwareLabs

Anatomy of an E-mail Scam

Whats in a Scam?

Tis the season to lose money, or gain money as the scammer would have it. I am relatively sure that no one reading this wants to lose money, but this article applies to all of you. It seems that with tax season around the corner, many out there have decided to pad their wallets with a bit of your cash. It would be my suggestion not to give it to them. This guide is intended to help you identify scams in your e-mail, what to look for, what not to do, and what you can do about it.

The Modus Operandi:

E-mail is worldwide and reaches more people than TV or paper mail. This fact makes it the perfect engine for a scammers needs. What AOL made popular the scammer has perfected. . . Spam. You get it every day in your e-mails and there seems to be no end to the useless junk mail that shows up in your inbox. Some is just broadcasted garbage and others are unintentional - some don't even make sense. There are a few emails (growing in numbers) that make you a target. Think of yourself as a bullseye in the sights of some anonomous person probably located on a different continent.

The people behind these e-mails are probably regular folks with one difference, they are criminals. Until the governments around the world decide to institute much stricter penalties (capital punishment) upon these pond scum, the scams will not go away. That is unless you make it unprofitable for them, I.E. don't fall for the scams. The criminal behind these scams doesn't prey upon smart individuals or most of the younger generation. Instead they target the older, less internet savvy crowd that has growing access to the internet. It's amazing how many senior citizen homes you will find equipped with computers and the internet these days.


I know how I would feel if my grandparents (rest their souls) were to lose thousands of dollars to some SOB online. My grandfather probably wouldn't understand what had happened. All he would understand is that he could no longer afford needed medication, or to buy flowers for my grandmother because someone had taken his savings. The saddened look on his face, embarrasment, and feeling of helplessness would eat a hole in me as I'm sure it would you. You are a smart individual who usually passes over such junk, deletes it, and moves on. You could have saved your family from this by a simple 5 minute conversation with your loved ones. Something along the lines of:

"Hey Grandpa if you ever get any e-mails you aren't sure about, or anything from anyone online asking for help or money, just ask me first. Thats all you have to do. Remember, Grandpa, almost all of those requests are scams and you will throw your money away for nothing. I'd rather you go buy Grandma flowers. I am always happy to take a quick look and let you know if it's real or a scam. "

Let's Open er Up:

As with any technology, there comes those that know enough to corrupt it. Gotta love those people don't you? (Hear the sarcasm?) Scam e-mails find themselves in your inbox no matter what service or address you have. This is true for office mail, businesses, personal, internet (Gmail, AOL, ATT, Road Runner, etc.). . . any e-mail anywhere is susceptable. A few samples for analysis:

These e-mails came from my inbox and are all within the last couple of days. What we are looking for in these e-mails are details that dont match or clues, like the following list of RED FLAGS:

  1. Poor grammer or mis-spelled words
  2. Bad sentences, think caveman speech
  3. E-mail addresses that don't match locations
  4. Requests for money to claim or receive money
  5. Claims that you have inherited money
  6. Anything UNUSUAL

Lets take the First e-mail as an example.

First the e-mail is titled "Dear Friend" and while this in itself is not unusual I personally do not have any friends who would send me an e-mail with this as the subject. Moving on I see the sender as a which means the sender is in India. No one I know is in India. I haven't helped someone enough to warrant them sending me 1.2 million, either. Thirdly, at the end of the e-mail I see that they want me to e-mail job_ , with some information. The e-mail they want me to use is in France, thus the .fr on the e-mail which doesnt correspond with a corporation in Paraguay or anyone in India. Other than being turned off to travel in any of these countries, I have the burning urge to see what would have happened if we had let Germany conquer France. Moving On.

Lets take the Second e-mail as an example.

This fun e-mail comes from Mr. Daniel Walker and stresses that I must urgently contact his secretary IN BOLD LETTERS FOR THE SUBJECT. In general I usually delete anything in my Inbox that is bolded. (This is just based on principle for me.) In this e-mail we see the e-mail sender is located at: A quick check through Google shows that refers to an ASIAN country even though the sender again wants me contact his secretary Mr. Paul who is located at in France. Again the sender thanks me for some effort that I gave him and wants to reward me with an obscene amount of cash for no real reason.

Lets take the Third e-mail as an example.

For the third e-mail we have a real winner contacting me named Dr. Martin Norwel, I never trust Doctors (again just based on principle). Dr. Martin lets me know that I have failed to claim my inheritance from a dear relative living in Nigeria who has left to me 18.5 Million. (Lucky me) Did these people even see my profile? Other than the bad sentences:

"This Card Center Will Send To You An ATM DEBIT Card Which You Will Use To Withdraw Your Money In Any ATM Machine In Any Part Of The World, So If You Like To Receive Your Fund In This Way, Please Let Us Know By Contacting Us Back And Also Send The Following Information As Listed Below."

I don't know about you but I usually capitalize every other word in a SeNtEnCe. (Again hear the sarcasm?) Anyone who needs to send me an ATM card in order for me to withdraw my inheritance needs some serious help in the financial system. To send me this card they have requested a copy of my identification (of course), which will result in most of you photocopying your Drivers License and sending it to them. NEVER DO THIS! Think of any request for your ID or personal information as not just a red flag, but a red flag dipped in kerosene and burning! For the wrap up on the third e-mail, we are once again requested to send our information to an e-mail address in France, Once again the e-mail at the end does not coordinate with the senders e-mail which is a RED FLAG.


Think of your e-mails as all being suspect. There will even be e-mails that arrive that appear to come from yourself. These are obvious junk and should be deleted. Use the following as rules of engagement:

  1. Your best approach to scam e-mails is to delete the e-mail and not reply.
  2. Never click any links (usually blue underlined text) in the e-mail.
  3. Never send the sender or any contacts in the e-mail any requested information.
  4. Never send them MONEY! EVER!
  5. If it sounds great it probably is not.
  6. Don't bother with reporting to any authorities or police etc. They have too many donuts to eat to look into your request. I.E. It's a waste of time.


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