Operator Speaking by Zachary Constantine

Confidence Games Over The Wire

2009-02-05 00:15:32 // The Operator

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”David Hannum

The esteemed widow of former Emperor of Malawi did not just send you a “friend” request, nor is she bearing a unique and prosperous offer straight out of Nigeria just for you.

- 25 random things about Facebook
by Helen A.S. Popkin at MSNBC.com

I received my first Nigerian 419 scam e-mail long before I had a bank account – not that having a bank account would have changed anything. The lesson behind declining strangers with candy is not limited sugary treats, after all… fortunately – for your entertainment and mine – this lesson is not universally understood.

Apparently even counterfeiters fall for scams from time to time:

Li clicked on the link provided showing the contest’s details and rules. The website also gave a telephone number 40067588XX, which he called numerous times to talk with people who identified themselves as the “Alibaba staff.” Li used his ATM card to pay contest fees such as “award taxes,” “personal income tax,” “express mail fees, “award insurance,”…etc. The total on that bill came to 26,550 yuan. Li finally figured out the whole thing was a scam…tears of pride were shed in Nigeria.

- Shanzhai Alibaba Grand Prize Winner…tool
at The Dark Visitor

A review of Wikipedia’s exhaustive list of scams turns up further amusing material:

  • “Would you take a check?” – Scammer sends a fake check to cover the purchase of goods with money to spare and requests that the mark send back the excess for one of many reasons.
  • From Russia with love… – Scammer develops mark’s romantic interest, then begins digging for gold…
  • “There’s a winner born every minute!” – Mark is convinced he or she has hit it big in the international lotto (you know, the one he or she forgot he or she ever entered).
  • The Gun for Hire – Scammer impersonates a hitman hired by a friend of the mark who will kill the guy who hired him – for a price.
  • “Somebody set us up the bomb!” – Scammer dials in to a business with a bomb threat and demands money and/or that everyone on the premises disrobe.
  • Exotic Pets – Scammer gets mark to pay for shipping of exotic pets which never quite manage to arrive.
  • Sucker Maintenance – Scammer suckers mark into paying more money to track down the last guys who scammed him (apparently suckers are reincarnated every minute, too).

A variation on the check cashing scam which appears to be gaining popularity is that of the “transaction analyst” in which the mark is asked to (a) form a business entity, (b) open a commercial bank account, and (c) process transactions (likely bad checks or fraudulent credit card transactions) for a foreign corporation. I would take odds that this scam has a low success rate – even the $50k per month salary offered in solicitations is likely not enough to get most people off the couch… right?

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