Friday, 11 June 2010

We get email

OK, we get lots of email. Some weeks we get several from people who ask for our help in transferring fortunes from their late relative’s bank accounts in places in West Africa. We get even more emails from people who have also received such offers and are now understandably skeptical. Correction, people don’t seem to be skeptical these days, there’s no need to be skeptical any more, I think we all know this is nonsense, don’t we?

Actually we don’t. Within the last few weeks we’ve heard about two people who were actually falling for this old scam. One had been electronically seduced by a beautiful young woman calling herself Hariet U. Yeboah who claimed to be in a Senagalese refugee camp and who had told our victim that “she has money in the royal bank in scotland which was left by her father before he died in the ivory coast wars in 2006.”

I won’t go into the full details but I’m sure you can guess the rest. All “she” wanted was for the victim to transfer some money via Western Union that would allow her fictional lawyer to transfer the fictional money to the victim’s account. The tragedy was that our victim still believed that this young woman really existed. He had never met her in the flesh and had never even spoken to her on the phone. The only contact he ever had with her was email. It’s a shame he never asked how she could send emails but couldn’t receive a phone call.

What we had to tell the victim, in the gentlest of ways, was that this girl didn’t exist. In fact all that existed was a single scammer, almost certainly a man, certainly not young and beautiful and with no fortune to give away.

Unfortunately it didn’t take must investigation to establish that this was a scam. You only had to read his email to see. However, just to underline our certainty I did a Google search for “Hariet U. Yeboah” and there was another report of the scam, showing the various pictures the scammer had sent out claiming they were of her. Strangely they weren’t all even pictures of the same girl, clearly he’s not a very consistent scammer.

I haven’t heard back from the potential victim since, I imagine he is a little embarrassed, but at least we got there before he started sending money to “her”.

Others haven’t been so fortunate. We also heard from the sister of a victim who was very concerned that her sister was offering everyone an end to debt because of the fortune she was about to acquire. She had also befriended someone on the internet claiming to be in a similar situation, also stuck in a refugee camp with a fortune to liberate. However the family of this victim were worried because she had already withdrawn large quantities of money that had disappeared. Needless to say it was too late to get that back, it was already in the hands of West African organised crime. However we were in time to stop her sending them a final payment of P200,000 before the fortune was meant to come her way.

I got a very intriguing email from someone called Lauren. It read:
“Hello Dear, Good morning or whatever the weather may be over there,how is the weather in your country?,my name is Lauren I'm tall and nice looking girl i just decided to drop you some words just to say hello and how was today,i saw your profile at and i will like to known more about you, please i will be very happy if you can reply me so that we can go further to known each other,we can be good friends,write me direct to my mail box, Hope to hear from you. yours Lauren.”
Well, that’s very nice. Or rather it would be if I actually had a profile at, which I don’t. It would also be flattering if “she” hadn’t sent it to everyone else in the world.

But, just to see what happened, I replied, using a different email address, one of my many scam-investigating Gmail addresses. Guess what? She’s in a refugee camp in Dakar! What a small world.

And do you what’s the best thing I found out? The pictures “Lauren” sends to potential victims are exactly the same pictures as those sent out by “Hariet U. Yeboah”! Isn’t that a wonderful coincidence?

The lesson is the same one I’ve mentioned again and again. Don’t trust anyone on the internet unless you know them in another way first. The internet is a perilous place to be.

Even at home there are perils. In the Daily News this week the Botswana National Sports Council announced that they were launching a new web site, which is clearly very modern and worthy. However, much as it pains me to say this, please don’t visit it. I went there and instantly Google popped up a security warning saying:
“Warning: Visiting this site may harm your computer! The website at appears to host malware – software that can hurt your computer or otherwise operate without your consent. Just visiting a site that hosts malware can infect your computer.”
It went on to say:
“Of the 2 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 1 page resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2010-06-07, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2010-06-07.”
Be careful out there on the internet!

This week’s stars
  • Elizabeth at Data Dominion Computers at the Carbo Centre at Riverwalk for being incredibly friendly and cheerful.

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