Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Beware Email Bearing Benefits!

How would you react if you received the following message, as I did recently?


My name is Jenifer Wilson i am a dying woman who have decided to donate what i have to you/ church/charity organizations. I am 64 years old and i was diagnosed for cancer for about 7 years ago, immediately after the death of my husband who lived all his life in America, who has left me everything he worked for.

I have been touched by God to donate from what i have inherited from my late husband for the good work of God, rather than allow my relatives to use my husband hard earned funds ungodly. Please pray that the good Lord forgive me my sins. I have asked God to forgive me and i believe he has because He is a merciful God. I will be going in for an operation in less than few days.

I decided to WILL/donate the sum of $5,500,000 (Five million five hundred thousand dollars) to you for the good work of the lord, and also to help the motherless and less privilege and also for the assistance of the widows according to (JAMES 1:27).

At the moment i cannot take any telephone calls right now due to the fact that my relatives are around me and my health status. I have adjusted my WILL and my lawyer is aware i have changed my will; you and him will arrange the transfer of the funds from my account to you.

I wish you all the best and may the good Lord bless you abundantly, and please use the funds well and always extend the good work to others. Contact my lawyer in the Netherlands with this specified email below and his contact:

Below are the my contact details information’s. of my lawyer Name; JERRY COOPER Email: barristercooper@[removed]

And i have also told my lawyer that i WILLED ($5,500,000.00) to you and i have also notified him that i am WILLING that amount to you for a specific and good work. I know i don’t know you but i have been directed to do this. Thanks and God bless.

NB: I will appreciate your utmost confidentiality in this matter until the task is accomplished as I don't want anything that will jeopardize my last wish. And Also I will be contacting with you by email as I don't want my relation or anybody to know because they are always around me.

Jenifer Wilson

please contact me through the email address below jeniferwilson2@[removed]
Okay . . . stop laughing. Get serious again.

What are the tell-tale signs of an email con?

Consider the characteristics of the message above:
  • The email message was unsolicited.
  • The writer lives in a foreign country.
  • The email address is generic -- easily obtained & easily abandoned.
  • The sender is unknown to me.The sender does not know me.T
  • The writing is inconsistent -- in grammar, punctuation, spelling, composition, & content.
  • The writer seeks sympathy from me.
  • The writer compliments me, while not knowing me.
  • The writer cites Divinity to reassure me.
  • The writer offers me something for nothing.
  • The offered benefits are exhorbitant.
  • The suggested transfers might be evasive or illegal, even if real.
  • The writer mentions professionals unknown to me.
  • Confidentiality is demanded.
  • The writer requests further contact from me.
  • The writer presses a sense of urgency.
Measured against common sense -- or just good grammar -- I find such messages humorous. But those selfish, gullible, or desperate enough to reply could become the victims of an online scam.

Crucial personal & financial information would be requested. It would be used for no good purpose, only for fraud, online theft, or even identify theft. Such scams bilk millions from our citizens, many of them seniors.

It's called "phishing". The U.S. Department of Justice reported on the crime in its "Special Report on Phishing", issued in March, 2004.
The Anti-Phishing Working Group states the crisis:
Phishing, the act of harvesting personal, bank, and credit information by way of forged email and fake web sites, has exploded in popularity within the criminal sector of the Internet.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group estimates that the volume of phishing e-mail is growing at a rate of over 30%, month after month
The characteristics of a "phishing" email message are set forth in an article posted online by APWG, entitled "Evolution of Phishing" (PDF, 9 pages). The message that I posted above matches the profile perfectly.

he Federal Trade Commission provides information & tips about "phishing" in its online advisory "How Not to Get Hooked by a 'Phishing' Scam" (October, 2006).

APWG also offers protection tips in its posting
"Consumer Advice: How to Avoid Phishing Scams". APWG further urges action by consumers who receive such email:
Always report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:
  • forward the email to
  • forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at
  • forward the email to the "abuse" email address at the company that is being spoofed (e.g. "")
  • when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intact
  • notify The Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI by filing a complaint on their website:
The one action you should not take, of course, is to reply to the sender of the message.

"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day;
wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit."

-- P.T. Barnum, American Showman

Update: 04/24/07:

Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office today posted advice on its website about avoiding email scams. See: "Ask the Attorney General: How can I tell the difference between e-mails from companies I do business with and scams trying to rip me off?".

The answer offers excellent advice:

In today's world, identity thieves are so sophisticated that the e-mails they send look just like legitimate messages from banks and other businesses.

These con artists use hijacked corporate logos and deceptive spam to deceive consumers into giving out credit card numbers, personal identification numbers or passwords, and other personal or financial data. * * *

How can I protect myself from this form of fraud?

  • NEVER reply to unsolicited e-mails or pop up messages asking for personal or financial information or requests to "verify" data about your account. Banks, credit card companies, and businesses like Paypal and eBay do not send requests for PIN numbers or sensitive information to their customers.
  • Don't call any phone numbers contained in messages purporting to be from your bank or other companies you do business with. Providing sensitive information to strangers by phone is as dangerous as sending it in an e-mail.
  • Also, don't open any links or documents contained in these messages - they may route you to a bogus website or download a virus onto your computer.