Lately, I’ve been receiving brief emails that ask me to ‘please reply to my previous email’. The emails have the rather accusatory ALL CAPS subject line ‘WAITING’, which implies that the original message was perhaps something important that I should by now have attended to. But, alas, a diligent search of my email account found no trace of the original message that I supposedly missed.
A number of other people have reported receiving such emails as well.
Of course, I knew that the ‘please reply’ emails were some form of scam tactic. But, I was curious as to what the scammer was up to by sending out such emails. So, using a junk email account I keep for such purposes, I played along with the ruse and replied to the email apologising for missing the original message and asking what it was about.
I soon received a follow up email from ‘Huang’ claiming that I could receive a share of several million dollars if I was willing to pose as next of kin to a rich business man who died. Supposedly, the man made no arrangement to distribute his fortune before he died and, given that I share his surname, I should therefore be able to make a claim to it. The sender explained that he could make all the arrangements regarding the 96 million dollar ‘inheritance’ on my behalf in exchange for a 60% share of the money. To get things started, Huang asked me to send a copy of my passport or driver’s licence along with other personal information.
Of course, the promised millions do not exist. This is an advance fee scam designed to trick people into sending money and personal information to cybercriminals. If I fell for the ruse and sent the requested information, I would soon be asked to send money to cover various expenses such as banking fees, tax, or insurance. Huang would explain that these fees must be paid in advance or the deal would not proceed. He would also most likely ask me to provide more personal and financial information. I would continue to receive more and more requests for money until I finally realised that I was being conned or ran out of money to send. Huang could pocket all the money I sent and disappear. He may also have been able to gather enough of my personal information to allow him to steal my identity.
So, nothing new here. This is very typical of such scams. Variations on the ‘next of kin’ scam have been sent out by criminals for decades. Such scams predate the Internet.
What does make this version a little more interesting is the initial filtering tactic the scammer has used. So what can the scammer hope to gain by sending out these initial ‘please reply’ emails.
By replying, the recipients indicate that their email address is valid and working and that they actually read their messages.
It’s fair to say that only more naive and inexperienced recipients will take the bait and reply to the initial email. These people may therefore be especially vulnerable to the impending scam attempt.
Those who reply will likely include their name in the message. The scammer can then make his claim seem more believable by adding their surname into the scam message.
Thus, the tactic allows the scammer to not only personalise the scam attempt, but concentrate his efforts on a group of recipients who may be prime targets for such fraud attempts. He may also be able to compile a valuable email list of these recipients to be used in later scam and spam campaigns.
Hello, Please reply my previous mail to you.
Subject: Re: WAITING
Hello Brett Christensen,
My name is Huang [removed], and I work at China Construction Bank, Hong Kong. We have just concluded an investigation which was not productive in respect of a global search of any kind of relative to a deceased client of ours named Mr. Nate Christensen who has an investment placed under my management 14 years ago.
The main reason of contacting you now is because our investigation results, you not only share the same last name as the deceased, but your profile best fits what I intend to do. I hope that you will be interested in my proposal as regards to the prospective opportunities and return it could provide for both of us, please take your time to read. Please find below a summarized biography of the deceased’s personality and also the purpose of contact with you and do note that this business deal is strictly confidential meanwhile to clarify your email, once you confirm your readiness before I can bring you in and introduce you as the next of kin to late Nate Christensen.
About Late Nate, he was a miner / mining consultant most of his life, who spent most part of his life working in South Africa, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. He migrated into Hong Kong a long time ago as an orphan at the age of 6; this made it difficult to have any link with his immediate extended family, as he was raised by a Priest (Rev. George Good of blessed memory) His ailment began when he lost his family (wife and their only. daughter) in a mysterious circumstance during a vacation visit to Northern Africa, he became devastated as a result of the shock from the news of the death of his family, subsequently fell sick (mentally), as he was been treated, his condition deteriorated, he suffered severe brain damage which eventually caused him to slip into coma, he later lost the fight and passed away. Prior to the unfortunate situation he confided in me that he had never known his father or his family and it had made it difficult for him to connect anyone from his lineage.
Late Nate entered a financial investment of about $ 55,000,000.00 (Fifty five million United States dollars) which he wished to have us turn over (invest) for ten years. We worked on strategies in line with the volume of fund at our disposal strategically investing in equity and equity related securities including venture capital. We spun the money around various diversified medium term programs and then attracting a margin in profit of 7.5% annually mostly in shares. This investment is now worth US $ 96,250,000.00 (Ninety six million, two hundred and fifty thousand United States dollars). In 2012, after the arrears were due, we noticed the inactivity on his portfolio, hence my office initiated an investigation which lasted for 18 months and had not found any next of kin as Nate was intestate in his belief. in line with his philosophy in enouncing valuables He also did not leave any known immediate family member behind because of his background and upbringing as an orphan;. Hence this is my primary reason for contacting you He lived a very prosperous and generous life, May his soul rest in peace. After his painful death, we tried severally to trace / locate anyone who could be slightly related to him, this task has been very challenging due to the circumstance of his migration into the Hong Kong, we tried to establish a connection from his only known roots (the orphanage) where he was raised, but almost everyone that knew him then have passed on. All efforts were unsuccessful. Recently I received news that has rekindled the need to locate his next of kin urgently, Hence my contact with you. Considering the similarity in your surnames and also we have some clues which has led us to believe that there is a geographical root connection between our late client and you. It is my wish to explore the possibility of establishing and presenting you as the next of kin / legal beneficiary of my late client. I have every information as well as resources here in Hong Kong and I am prepared to place you in a beneficiary’s position as the rightful next of kin to Nate estate. The deposit hopefully should be released to you within a couple of weeks after all the necessary paper work has been put together and filed in accordance with the inheritance act law of no claims circumstance. We can then share in a ratio of 60% for me and 40% for you. But before I proceed to divulge further details, I require that you re-confirmed and send to me your complete background information which should include the following below.
1) Full Names (Surname, others) As Stated in the Letter You received.
2) Contact info (Physical address)
3)Telephone, Fax and Mobile Numbers
4) Age, Marital Status, Religious Affiliation and Current Occupation.
5) A valid copy of your International Passport or Driver’s license Copy.
Upon receipt of the above requested information, I will furnish you with further detailed information of your expected role in order to achieve the successful realization of this objective “transfer of title of ownership” (Inheritance) to you. Thank you for your time, understanding and full anticipated cooperation.
Last updated: January 18, 2016
First published: January 18, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen