OK, so that’s a lame misquote of an Elton John song. But then, I never thought of Roy Rogers as a comic book character anyway, so…
Anyway: After 23 hours off the internet (one of those unusually social days), I open up gmail today to see a pitiful email “from” an old acquaintance (who I’ve never met in person, AFAIK). Here’s the text:
I am in a hurry writing you this mail. I traveled to UK wales for an urgent function and i got mugged at a gun point. It was a terrible experience. All cash and credit cards were stolen away from me. I reported to the police they asked me to wait for 2 weeks to carry out investigations. I am totally freaked out here.
Right now, my return flight leaves in couple of hours from now. I am only telling you this because i do not want you to panic at all. just keep it the way have told you till i return back home.
I am seriously having problems in settling my hotel bills and to get a taxi down to the airport. Just wondering if you could loan me $2000 to settle my bills and to get a taxi down to the airport. I promise to pay back when i return back home today.
Please you can help me send the money to my name and my present location because i am only left with my passport to pick up the money.
[UK address omitted]
Do let me know if you will be going to the western union outlet right now to send the money to my name and my present location and please dont forget to get back to me with the transfer details which is the senders information and the MTCN number.
I await your urgent response.
The email address was that of “Name Omitted”–but it was a gmail address, and all my correspondence with this person has been at a .edu email address, so I was suspicious right off the bat.
Beyond that, what kept me from running out to my local Western Union outlet to wire that $2K to my dear friend? Let’s count a few of the ways:
- He doesn’t address me by name.
- The person who supposedly sent this is a careful, elegant writer would never in a million years forget how to capitalize or how to write complete sentences…so “wales” and “i got” and “at a gun point” and “stolen away” and “I reported to the police they asked me…” are each suspicious and cumulatively convincing: “My virtual acquaintance Name Omitted did not write this.”
- It gets worse…the second sentence of the second paragraph is essentially incoherent and the fourth paragraph is no better.
- I figure the chances of Name Omitted signing off with “Thanks Alot” and no name as being roughly equivalent to the chances of Google actually sending me $750,000 in a Gmail lottery. (Google has to line up behind the seven Nigerian princes whose wives I’m negotiating with on terms of their money-laundering schemes…)
Oh, and the fact that Name Omitted probably knows a few hundred people–people he deals with face-to-face–who he would contact before he’d contact me.
There’s one more: If this was even close to legitimate, No Name would have included a telephone number and a hotel name, thus giving me some plausible chance to confirm the situation.
It’s a shame that scams like this are spreading–which can only mean that they work once in a while. I suppose the semiliteracy of most scam artists helps.