Turning the tables on the scammers
What happens when you play along with a scammer? One lovemoney.com reader did just that!
If you've got a spare moment, why not have some fun at a scamster's expense? That's just what lovemoney.com reader Ken Squires from Portsmouth did.
He received an email saying William Squires died in mysterious circumstances in a remote part of China leaving $17.5 million. His letter told him he was the sole remaining relative – and would inherit this fortune.
Ken knew it was nonsense. He had read my lovemoney.com article some weeks ago about my own experience and the comments that attracted. My letter mentioned the very non-existent William Levene, so all that had changed was the surname. And if that wasn't enough, Ken knew there was no William and he comes from a big family so he could not be a sole remaining relative.
Ken tells me: “Rather than send the email to the trash folder or tell the guy to take a hike, I thought I would play along with him. I showed interest. He sent pictures of a family purporting to be his, he told me he had an illness in the family and could I pray for his granddaughter?”
The swindler (who signed himself Kia) wrote: “At this stage I have exclusive access to the files of Late William. In order to perfect the smooth transfer to your custody of these assets I have secured the services of a solicitor in China. His only task in this transaction is prepare and back date legal documents introducing you as the sole beneficiary to this funds i.e. Affidavit of testament of WILL including probate letters stating you as beneficiary as well as next of kin and sole executor to his estate (which includes cash).
"Upon completion of documents, these documents will be put in late William’s file and presented to my bank for verification and immediate action. Based on my ground work and meticulous planning there should be little or no difficulty with approval granted on funds. My bank approve and then authorization given to the Dalian Bank to make payment to you.”
Cracking English, I'm sure you'll agree.
Building a rapport
Ken played the "I want to get to know you as a friend" card and built up a relationship. This was what the swindler was hoping for, but Ken kept firing off questions about the person's family, home and friends while answering any sent back in as bland a way as possible. Ken says he surprised himself how good at it he was.
“He kept emphasising how everything had to be kept very confidential. He gave me a phone number that always led to an answering machine.”
And Kia made it clear that Ken had to follow instructions carefully or the project would be aborted. But if he did as he was told, he would soon be very rich.
Kia wrote: “This business has been conceived over time and all have been painstakingly worked out to perfection so success is achieved without complications or litigations coming our way. You on your part need to follow and adhere to my every instruction and do exactly as I will advice for success to be gained. This is non negotiable my friend as we go into partnership.”
Fraudsters playing the Nigerian letter scam tend to be patient. Ken's would-be scamster didn't ask him immediately for money for the solicitors - – Ken had made it clear he was hard up. Kia said he had mortgaged some land to raise the money for legal fees. Of course, this was all lies, but it helps build the relationship with the potential victim.
The plot thickens...
By now, the scamster really believed Ken was eating out of his hand. So using the headed notepaper of a legitimate Chinese bank, the would-be racketeer sent Ken a letter headed “Application for Inheritance Claims on deceased account”. This told him he would have to report to the head office of the “Financial Service Authorities China” in Hong Kong (there is no such organisation) for the “mandatory signing” or he could use “the services of a Central Bank of China/FSA registered and accredited local independent legal consultant to carry out the endorsement.”
Ken said: “Sorry, can't make Hong Kong”. The next day the “bank” sent him details of his legal adviser – a real firm whose identity had been stolen. A day or two later, the phoney lawyers sent an email which pointed out that “our esteemed firm” had “35 years' experience in dealing with inheritance claims” and had “a 99.5% success rate”.
Now the financial demands started. It was $6,000 for legal fees and another $4,000 for “FSA verification.” But Kia made it clear that the money was to go to the bank, not him. Of course, the bank account quoted belongs to the fraudsters.
Desperation sets in
Ken had no intention of sending anything. Kia's emails started to sound a bit desperate.
There was this:
I hope that you are well. I have tried calling and could not get through to you .I was calling to find out what situation from you and how far you have done. I even left for you a message. Please keep me informed as you progress. I hope that you are updating the consultant as well.
Thanks and regards, Kia
Attached are letters received from the Bank. I have written to the solicitor asking him to act on my behalf, so we shall see where we go from here. Best wishes.
Ken simply returned the phoney letters. He had not done anything else. After that, there were some more “what's happening” emails from Kia and “unhelpful” replies.
Ken says: “I finally tired of baiting Kia but he had deserved it. He would have taken me for everything and demanded I take out loans as well. He still sends sad little letters (with pictures of his “family”) asking why I don't respond any more.”
Should you do this at home? Only do this if you have your wits about you. Don't give the fraudsters any more information than they already have (probably your address and email but you could always set up an email especially for this).
Never give bank account details although if pushed, make up nonsense numbers (such as eight figure sort codes and fourteen figure account numbers.)