Over another Hump

Monday, September 18, 2006

Spam Scam - Thank You Ma-am

The same old spam is circulating again so I thought it might be timely to post this experience I had. Hope it saves some one ;o) Frances.

Spam Scam. 2004

The message on the computer blinked at me, "Award Notification".
Normally I would have deleted it but I had entered a writing competition so I clicked to read the message, which read, "Congratulations you have won one million US dollars." The official looking letter went on to say how I had won third prize in a lottery that was run every three years by Microsoft and, because of some numbers mix up, I must keep my information to myself until the claim form had been filed.

I stared at the computer screen, reading the message again. I closed my eyes tightly then opened them. The words were still the same.

"Yeh, right," I thought, reading it through. " Contact blah, blah, blah, by the 22nd of next month or the money will revert to the Nederland's Internal Revenue." I deleted the message and left the computer, feeling pissed with who-ever sent the spam, and went to prepare dinner.

Throughout the next few days the message niggled at me. What if it was for real? I'd look a right fool, wouldn't I, if I did nothing and it proved to be legitimate. "Nah!" I muttered, "Who believes in fairies in this day and age? It's just a scam to find if this is really an address, or someone is going to ask for my banking particulars and then rip me off. I've heard of that!"

The little "but?" still followed me around as I did my chores. I day- dreamed of what I could do with even half that kind of money. What I could do for the kids, this really would be a great start for them both.

Frank and I could finally take that trip around the country we were forever dreaming about with no need to worry about time. A new car, a Granny Flat for visitors, lipo-suction, face-lift. I chortled as the ideas became more and more fanciful.

Four days after the message arrived I took out the copy I'd had printed before deleting and carefully read it through for the umpteenth time. Then I sent a reply.

That day I received my first instructions. I was to confirm my batch number and lottery number. Interestingly the references in the heading did not correlate to the text of the letter so I queried it, by phone as the e-mail address was returning my mail.

This was a difficult conversation because of his Asian/Dutch accent and my Australian accent. I was a little confused at the timing of the call and surprised that someone would be conscientious enough to be working at midnight, as I judged the time in Holland to be. No problem, he said, just quote the ones in the text. I was to remain in contact with a Mr Lee throughout the confirmation process.

On confirmation of the batch number and lottery number I had a phone call from Mr Lee. This time it was midnight, my time. Must be payback, I thought. He gave me further instructions and e-mailed me a form to complete for "endorsement in the high court of justice Den-haag here in the netherlands." By this time I had noticed quite a few typos but put it down to the translator in the Netherlands Office.

I confirmed the website address and, though it wasn't particularly impressive for a company that was used to handling millions of dollars, I remained cautiously optimistic.

A series of late night calls followed, with Mr Lee keeping me on target. Two days before deadline he informed me that they needed me in Amsterdam to collect the money at the presentation ceremony.

I had been in touch with both the Dutch and Australian Embassies so was primed in what to expect.

"Oh Mr Lee, that won't be necessary," I cooed. "My son works in the Australian Embassy in The Hague. He is very willing to meet with you. He will bring his solicitor with him. Just give me the directions…"

The voice at the other end squeaked "Ah mudder, I must go, I am very busy, you know…."

"Oh, Mr Lee, before you go. I must thank you for your help and kindness, your mother must be proud of what you do. I just hope my son can do the same for your mother some day…"

Although this was quite an amusing experience for me, according to the contacts at both embassies these scams work. The official wording and the follow-ups are business-like enough to trap the unwary and raise hopes for quick money.

The crunch comes when they start charging for solicitors and expenses incurred in the effort to get 'your winnings' released. Sadly, many have been caught, usually unfortunates who can least afford it.

As I was writing this I received an e-mail from UK headed Bonanza. "We are pleased to inform you of the results … This time it was for second place and worth Two Million Euro.

I think I'll wait for the big one.