orphans, tsunamis and prisoners
This page discusses email scams that appeal to the recipient's
compassion rather than greed about sharing the scammer's
It covers -
is a broader discussion of cyber-begging
elsewhere on this site.
Some scammers have preyed on the reader's good will, rather
than greed, although again exploiting the victim's credulity
and difficulty in establishing the truth. Email pleas
to send blankets, warm clothing - or merely cold hard
cash - are a contemporary version of letters that have
circulated since at least the Middle Ages and newspaper
advertisements that raised the ire of postal
service inspectors over the past 150 years.
Typically the recipient is claimed to have been identified
"through a friend", via a print directory
or the net, or via an unidentified source. The sender
seeks support for a worthy cause: an institution such
as an orphanage or disaster relief organisation, an individual
or a family that is beset by misfortune. The sender is
located in another region or another nation: somewhere
that is sufficiently exotic for claims to be plausible
and sufficiently distant to prevent investigation by most
recipients (or by authorities).
baby it's cold out here
One example is the heart-wrenching plea we (and a large
number of spam filters) received from a resident of Kaluga
in Russia during December 2005
I'm student and live with my mother in small city in
Russia. My mother is invalide. She cannot see and she
receive pension from the government very rare which
is not enough even for medications. I work very hard
every day to be able to buy the necessities and medications
for my mother, but my salary is very small, because
my studies still not finished. Due to the deep crisis,
authorities stopped gas in our small district and we
cannot heat our home anymore. I do not know what to
do, because the weather is minus 11 degrees Celsius
already and radio says it will be up to minus 25 during
the next month. I'm very afraid that if the temperature
will be lower than 0 degree in our sleeping room, we
will not survive. I applied to local Red Cross and they
explained me that many people ask them for help every
day and they cannot help to each family. They adviced
me to search help from individuals. Thanks to free Internet
access in our municipal library, I found several addresses,
including yours and I decided to appeal to you with
a prayer in my heart for a small help. If you have any
old used sleeping bag, warm blanket, warm clothing,
portable heater, canned food, vitamins, water boiler,
medicines against cold weather, any hygiene products,
I will be very grateful you if you could send it to
our home address:
... If you think that it would be better or easier for
you to help with some money, please writes me back to
my free e-mail ... and I will provide you with details
how to send it safely, if you agree. This way to help
is very good, because in this case I will be able to
buy a portable stove and heat our home during the winter.
Alas, someone with the same name (or variants thereof)
and using the same address had been spamming
since at least 1999. In that year, as noted
in an Italian investigative site, he claimed to be a penniless
In 2002 it was
excuse me for any inconvenience caused by this message.
I would never send a message like this, but our hopeless
situation forces me to send it. ... I'm 20 years old
and I'm a student. I live with my mother and brother
in the city of Kaluga, Russia. We had two grandfathers,
but they died during this year. My mother is an invalid.
She cannot see and she receives an indemnity from the
government very rare which is not enough even for supporting
our lives. My brother is an invalid, too, since the
accident happened 5 years ago. A big part of his body
is paralized. The government does not pay any indemnity
to him and to many other Russian invalids. Since several
years I take care of my mother and brother. The Russian
government does not help us because of the current crisis
and the corruption in Russia. I have a small piece of
land in the forest where I grow vegetables during the
summer, but this summer was very hot and it was not
raining, therefore all the vegetables became dried.
I'm very afraid that the cold winter is setting in and
my family has nothing to eat afterwards. This evening
our weather is minus 19 degrees Celsius and it is going
to be much more colder in the next month. It seems that
all of us are doomed to the starvation and death. The
only chance we have to survive is to use the free public
access to the internet during the evening at the High
School when it is possible. I have found several e-mail
addresses, including yours, that is why I have decided
to appeal to you directly for a small help. If you have
anything that is possible to eat, as well as any old
warm clothes which you are not using anymore, I would
be more than happy if you could send it to our home
2003 the ailing brother had disappeared from the message.
Despite recurrent use of the name the plea was persuasive
enough to gain some endorsement
from sober, web-savvy readers in 2005 and will presumably
do so in coming years. We thus received a variant in October
One plea from the land of Vlad the Impaler asks us to
Help those who are suffering and be confident that in
this way you will serve the Good God! If you are willing
to sustain the unhappy peoples, be confident that many
persons will be grateful, will thank you and will mention
you in their prayers. The persons which, without wishing
are suffering due to their unhappy fate are crying,
are dreaming and are hopping to be saved by the Peoples
that are helping the Peoples. We believe that you are
a good Christian and we invite you to join us in our
work to help the peoples. Depending on your conscience,
send a small sign of your help for the crying souls
and you will receive tenfold. Our message for you is
a humanitarian appeal, of force majeure, an appeal for
kindness and solidarity, that we kindly ask you to take
into consideration. We wait for you!
they wait in vain for a response to the request that we
supply our bank account details and contact numbers in
following up their spam.
tsunamis, quakes and other disasters
Well-publicised natural disasters trigger a rash of spam
that invites the generous to donate to fictitious or real
charities and relief funds.
Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, the FBI noted
a spam email soliciting donations of US$5 via credit card.
The spam purported to come from firstname.lastname@example.org,
ie the American Red Cross, with a fake link to the RedCross.org
site. In reality the link went to pro-solutions2.com/cgi-bin/register.pl,
with donations (and credit card details) going to scammers
rather than relief workers.
Similar scams have been identified after the
events in the US
2004 Asian tsunami
2004 and 2005 coal mining disasters in China
earthquake in China
cyclone in Burma
January 2006 Sago (West Virginia) mining accident
vary from event to event. The Sago spam claimed to emanate
from a physician at the hospital treating the sole survivor,
soliciting money for further treatment and life after
release from medical care.
Others have claimed to come from
Australian, US or International Red Cross
the Society of Friends
the Red Crescent
the Royal Blind Society
Australian Guide Dog Association
supposed offer from UNICEF for example claims that the
recipient is urgently needed as a cashier in Australia
("we need your services as a Representative to receive
these various donations"). Greedy fools are requested
to advise the sender (supposedly a Benin agency using
a Montserrat address) of their -
I'D Number [sic]
spammers have offered money, on occasion as a reward for
achievement - somewhat perplexing when the spammer claims
not to know the recipient's name, address or other information
- or as "compensation" for past spam.
In 2007/8 we thus received offers from people in the "nigerian
Office" of the UN -
from James Moore
from Peter Adams
from Patricks Lombard
from Patrick Lombards
from Mr McMoris.
spammers purport to offer large gifts in celebration of
particular events, including -
in the form of an ATM card from Dr Ahmed Bashiru of
the Nigerian Senate on behalf of the UN, WHO and EU
from Dr Ahmed Bashiru of the Eglise catholique en France
Dr Bashiru Ahmed of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
he had earlier offered recipients a role in laundering
US$23.615m. His doppelganger Bashiru Ahmed of the Nigerian
Central Bank offered US$10m in cash. Bashiru Ahmed the
Dubai merchant (with a cancer that has "defiled all
forms of medical treatment") has US$18m in cash.
Jacob Benjamin, a UK merchant in England, also has cancer
that has "defiled all form of medicine".
Benjamin reports that "Though I am very rich, I was
never generous", the very same words used by Paul
Bremsen, Frank Adam, Karim Malik Nima, Justin Lorenzo,
Ali Waheed, Ehab Elbalawi, Jennifer Wilson, Campbell William,
William Simon, Simon Williams, Campbell Williams, Miguel
Wayne, Jadel Dudi, Saaed Ahmed, Saeed Ahmed, Sanni Saed,
Ahmed Saeed, John Spencer, Spencer John, Abdul Raham,
David Winterbottom, Abdul Nasser Naji, Khalid Mahmoud
and Patrick Thompson.
They all have loot in the UAE, are all
are afflicted by the oesophageal cancer that has "defiled"
medical treatment and of course all want your
help to distribute the money to good causes.
'Lady Helen Crawford' wishes to dispose of £25 million
before her imminent death and begs you to contact Barrister
Paul Westley Esq with the good news that she has willed
that loot to you for use in the 'Crawford Charity Foundation'.
People who believe in miracles will not be distressed
by the bad news that the email address for Westley (or
Westly) is variously given as -
that the street address for Crawford's supposed family
mansion is in fact a chocolate shop in Manchester.
A preceding page of this note highlighted the long history
of what has sometimes been called the 'Spanish Prisoner'
(or 'Turkish Prisoner') scam, in which the scammer extracts
money from people who are compassionate but ingenuous.
The scam has migrated online, with scammers -
to collect money to rescue someone who is being held by
officials or criminals (in some instances by operators
of a 419 scam) in another country or
to be someone who is being held and thus needs
to be ransomed.
example involves prominent Australian poet Anne Fairbairn,
who responded to a phishing exercise by providing a scammer
with her email account details (including her username
and password). The scammer then posed as Fairbairn, emailing
her contacts saying that she was stuck in Nigeria after
theft of her money and urgently needed a transfer of $2500
via Western Union. Hijacking of her account meant that
the real Fairbairn was unable to alert those contacts
to the scam.
next page (hitmen)