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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 23, 2009 @ 10:23 am

    Shakespearean Spamodrama

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Like the rest of you, I normally just delete these begging letters that turn up as spam on my email. But because the guy’s name was similar to that of someone I know, I opened this one and read it. Macbeth, Hamlet: eat your hearts out.

     Or maybe I should say Dr Crippen. This guy claims his father was poisoned by a business associate and that he himself was nearly poisoned by an uncle. Maybe this is my way out of the recession: what do you think? How did this fellow get my email address? Do these people exist or is some bored academic writing these tracts when he should be completing a thesis on the Bard? Or, taking a more humane approach and setting aside the lurid details, is it a desperate plea for help from a poor soul in a dire situation? Spelling and punctuation as in original:-

    Permit me to inform you my heart desire for a business relationship with
    you. I got your contact when I was searching for a foreign partner here in Abidjan
    republic of Cote D’Ivoire on my search for honest and reliable person. I
    prayed over it and decided to confide in you because your integrity and educational
    My father was a very wealthy Gold/Diamond dealerin Freetown, the
    economic capital of Sierra Leone.My father was poisoned to death by his close
    business associates on one of their outings on a business trip.
    My mother died when I was 15 years old and since then my father took me so
    special.Before the death of my father last year on  match 19th 2006, in a
    private hospital in Freetown, he secretly called me by his bed side and
    told me of a deposit of 26 million united state dollars (Twenty Six MILLION
    DOLLARS)he concealed in a VERSUS Bank on the 2nd of JANUARY 2005 that he used my name been the only son as the next of kin when he deposited the money.
    He warned me that because of enemy that he was poisoned by his close
    associates.He also advised me to seek for an honest foreigner in a country of
    my choice those associates will not hurt me as they have succeeded in
    poisoning him.For your information , it has been difficult to know who is an honest
    person to assist me in this transaction , and for me to continue silent over
    looking for assistance while my money is in the bank i decided to make a try
    from you, I arrived here (ABIDJAN) in a nearby country on the 28RD of airprel 2006,
    since my uncle wants to kill me because of this certificate of depositsas he have
    suceeded in collecting all my father’s property left with this money;They
    continuously mal-treated me, and have made life very unbearable for
    The wife serve me a delicious poisoned rice meal last time,but for the Devine
    mercy the daughter secretly whispered to me not to eat the meal; i wasted the
    meal to the bin only to find two dead rat on the bin the following morning
    and that made me to run away immediately. And i don’t want to stay long here since i know nobody or much money to pay for hotel bill.
    Dear, I honourably seek your assistance in the following ways:

    1.To stand as my late father’s foreign partner since my late father deposited
    it to be clem by his foreign partner and no name was mentioned,

    2.To help me come over to your country to further my education.Please my
    intention is not to disturb your Peace,but because l am sincerely in need,And
    desperately need a solution before my life is wasted because there is war in
    this country.Among all, the most important thing is for you to be aiding
    me as parent who will directing all my affair es and doings in your country.
    Lastly ,you will promise me that you will not betray or deny me if this my
    money gets into your bank account and country,Dear, I am ready to offer you 20% of the total money for your help.But if may be you are not in better position to help. Please let me know. So that I can look for another helper. I am with the certificate of deposit upon demand. I will show you.Looking forward to your kind reply soonest and may God bless you.


    • robespierre says:


      I have worked for some time in anti-piracy. You can buy cd’s / downloads of emails quite easily on the old interweb. That is where they got your email from. It’s a high-volume business so once they have your (more challenging) appellations combination controlled for conjoint & separated variations they would concatenate it with the top pop mail accounts and then target you.

      It is a scam, they are always scams and are based on 1 person in every 250k or so falling for it. Every cent they get is 100% profit. African trade functions on letters of credit more so than banks so the fact that no escrow facility (they transfer cash to their bank who then transfer it to yours who then confirm receipts of money against goods for your account) is mentioned further underlines its bogus nature.

      This is organised crime by the way and it is closely linked to identity theft. For instance if they were able to get your statement from your bank they would have enough to get a duplicate identity for you and then commit any number of crimes in your name.

      The main centres for this form of crime are the CIS, West Africa and China.

    • Deaglán says:

      Thanks for that. Very useful and informative. I figured they would get someone, somewhere with more money than sense to play ball with them. Can they access people’s bank accounts online, I wonder?

    • Mark says:

      Tell them 15% or NO DEAL.

    • robespierre says:


      The answer to that is yes and no in a number of ways.

      a) It depends to some extent on the gullibility (and greed) of the person at the end of the line. The way these things tend to unfold is that the moment somebody responds they start getting bombed with emails looking for extra information on them (where they live, where they work, bank account number, phone number, social security details). Again it is a numbers game so the returns are very high for the people that respond as it gives them a small sample to focus on. Send 2m emails, 50 responses – 2 identities = USD 25000 for a passport with a clean criminal record or whatever money the hapless individual is exposed to by opening their bank account up to another person.

      b) It also depends on the scam. As this is probably a West Africa scam the play here is more likely to be identity theft than on-line theft for a raft of reasons including lack of sufficiently stable internet connections. The identity will then be used to either clear out your account or to sell a virgin passport onto the open market.

      In response to your specific question there are some software programs that can be sent to users that look like their on-line account homepage. If these are activated by clicking them then a pirate can either read your cookies (i.e. saved passwords & logons for websites), take a copy of your hard drive or screen scrape the details you enter your on-line banking. This is why home users should be very vigilant and maintain an up-to-date anti-virus program, firewall and a phishing filter (to keep these prying eyes out). The leading brands are all much of a muchness.

    • Deaglán says:

      Good advice, R., thanks. Are the free anti-virus programmes we heare about any use or is it better to pay for one?

    • Robespierre says:

      Hi Deaglán

      Firstly let me state I have no vested interest in this. I do not work for or make money from promoting Symantec, Norton, McAfee or any other leading brand. I look at hardcore theft (illegal download, unauthorised replicated CD’s etc) mostly but these scams are part of the community of pirate scams out there. I am not spamming your blog!!!

      My own personal view is that there are some things like web browsers that are open source (free) which are great (Firefox for example) or operating systems like Linux which save you from paying Microsoft money to use their software.

      That said I would not take a risk on free virus software unless it is vouched for by a company like Google or another tech company with a similarly (relatively) altruistic ethos. The risk is too high – like the Romans the question I would ask is Cui Bono? Probably not you….

    • A worker says:

      The Irish Times’s ‘politics’ blog is featuring spam, with comments invited, when the now brazenly right-wing publication’s editorial peddles unalloyed IBEC propaganda. With, of course, no comments allowed.
      Why don’t you write about, and let people debate, something real rather than putting out political spam?

    • Deaglán says:

      Dear Anonymous “Worker”:

      What do you mean, no comments are allowed in the print edition? What about the Letters Page?

      As for the politics blogs, I believe just about everything is political. But here are a few posts from the last few days, dealing with conventional political issues, for you to get your teeth into:



    • A worker says:

      Dear privileged Irish Times correspondent,
      I don’t apologise for my anonymity. I shoudn’t even engage with you on this cheap shot. The internet gives a voice to people who choose not to divulge their identity, not least because of the repercussions from their employer. We don’t all write according to the neo-liberal imprimatur which currenly holds sway in Tara Street. If your publication has a difficulty with that then you should change your system to publish named posts or mount a ‘down with this sort of thing’ campaign against the internet in general. In any case, your other contributors’ handles here are hardly more revealing.
      As to what I mean, I think it is clear that I was referring to comment online, which hardly can be bracketed with the hyper-controlled setting of your letters page. In your online edition, we only can comment on the issues which you choose to let us comment on. Why does your newspaper not permit comment on its editorials when they are so obviously biased?

    • Deaglán says:

      Dear Downtrodden Toiler,

      This is 2009, not 1409. I know the feeling of being oppressed and censored may be comforting but try to accommodate some of the facts while you’re at it.
      The Letters Page, as anyone who reads it will know, does indeed publish letters critical of our editorials. The lead letter only the other day came into that category.
      You are also perfectly free, subject to considerations of defamation and good taste, to comment in this blog on the editorials. That’s what you’ve done in your last two comments, isn’t it? You can also comment on other posts such as the one I’ve done just now, “A Terrible Beauty …”
      So that leaves you with nothing to complain about, doesn’t it? Or would you prefer to have a gripe to cling onto?

    • A worker says:

      Dear privileged IT correspondent,

      Thank you for addressing the substantive issue in your subsequent post. I don’t agree with all of it, but at least it goes some way to representing the complexity and scale of the issue, and you have interesting if rather ambiguous things to say on the media role in all of this.

      But before you lecture me on facts, perhaps you might have a word with your disingenuous editorial-writing colleague and tell her or him precisely who indulged in ‘national sabotage’ and broke off discussions on a solution to our national crisis, ordering mostly ordinary workers to shoulder the cost of the shambles created by our fabled business leaders and the crony capitalism for which The Irish Times has been a significant cheerleader.

      I presume that hasn’t been expunged from your archive or from others, and will be there to see in years and decades to come to give the lie to your newspaper’s flagrant adoption of the role of government and business propagandist.

      As for the truth of my original complaint, it still remains a fact that neither I nor anyone else can comment online on your newspaper’s primitively-biased editorial . You may prefer that people think about the fifteenth century rather than the IT’s new low in its current editorial. But of course the technology from that era affords your organization the convenient comfort of limiting criticism for space reasons, and so, in spite of your Pravda-ish pointing to the existence of a few uncomplimentary outcrops, ultimately you have an excuse for choosing which critical letters to publish.

      Have an ungracious sneer all you like about ‘oppression’. But, media bias or no, Irish workers are perfectly justified in organizing in the face of crooked and patently unfair dealing by this government and their friends in teh Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation.

    • Deaglán says:

      That’s your third comment on the Editorial in a single morning. I don’t think you could have done that on Pravda in its heyday!!

    • JD says:

      Working dude, start your own blog! Your comments here merely curse the darkness, when your fingers and keyboard are a match and a candle.

      Indeed, with your purple prose and extremist views, you will surely break free of the proletarian chains that bind you and instead become a noble member of the online loudmouth aristocracy!

    • Declan martyn says:

      Worker! Sorry Comrade, but It looks like the Revolution has been cancelled due to sudden and unexpected results from USA: showing signs of recovery and less-severe recession. You might even find a job instead of wasting your time blogging in memory of Joe STALIN.

    • I’ve nothing to say to A worker, but that e-mail is probably the funniest spam e-mail I’ve ever read.
      You should have replied and wasted his time for a while (I remember one man convinced a group of Nigerians to copy an entire Harry Potter book by hand).

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