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Eternal sunshine of the witless mind


The subject of today’s lesson is scam spam. We all get it (although I do recommend Mailwasher, which really does head it off at the pass), but it seems that “age does not weary nor the years condemn” the international email scammer. The question that has to be asked is: “Why is it all so badly written?” Now, I’m almost as gullible as the next bloke and if I received a plausible proposal, written in English with a suggestion that the writer knew what he was writing about, I expect there’s at least a sporting chance that I might swallow it. As it is, though, I spit.

A case has been made that it is written deliberately badly, that people will counter-intuitively be more sympathetic and vulnerable to an apparent innocent touting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that they will reckon they can outsmart the hick scammer. Well, that might have convinced as a working proposition in the early days of email, but surely people know enough now – about Nigerian 419s and so on – to have their shields up and phasers set to ‘Shun’.

It is not always Nigerian, of course; just usually! In this Chinese example, received yesterday, I have changed only the name of the ‘perp’ – for cheap comedic value:

FROM: Mr. Peter Sum Ting Wong
(Managing Director)
Hang Seng Bank Limited
83 Des Voeux Road, Central
Hong Kong SAR.


It is understandable that you may have a bit uneasy, because I do not know, but I have a lucrative business proposal for a mutual interest to share with you. I got the link on the search for someone who meets I propose a business relationship.

Okay. I can just about make sense of this. It’s nonsense, of course, but you can see where he’s going.

I am Mr. Peter Sum Ting Wong, executive director of Hang Seng Bank Ltd. have obscured in a business proposal for you. I want to help me implement a business project in Hong Kong in your country. This includes the transfer a large sum of money. Everything about this transaction should be made legally without a hitch. Please endeavor to comply with the maximum discretion in all matters concerning this issue.

Hang Seng is a thoroughly reputable bank, of course; and that’s not an oxymoron. What’s more, the headquarters are at 83 Des Voeux Road. Oh, but what a surprise: there is no Peter Sum Ting Wong shown anywhere among the directors or senior management. The business proposal is clearly one of those tricky quantum things, because he says it’s simultaneously “in Hong Kong in your country”. The money transfer goes which way? The rest is gibberish.

Once the funds have already been successfully transferred into your account, we shall share the money must be approved by both.

Oh yeah?

I’d rather not worth it in my private e-mail address below and finally, after it was handed over to you More information about this operation.

Sorry, Peter, but that went straight by me.

Please, do not care if you delete the e-mail, and do not hunt me because I am putting my career and life, my family is at stake with this business. Although nothing ventured nothing gained. Do send me the the following information when you respond back to me.


Your full name:
Phone and Fax:

Not on your intercoursing life, pal.

The earliest response to this letter will be evaluated.

Kind regards,

Mr. Peter Sum Ting Wong

As a caring human being, I would find myself worrying for these people. I asked myself what I could possibly do to help them to realise their potential. They work so hard at their pathetic and incompetent scams, with so little prospect of scraping a living from them. For a while, when I received emails like that, I would write back immediately to offer my services – from a throwaway email account, of course.

Dear Mr. xxxx (although that’s obviously not your real name),

Thank you so much for your delightful email, which really brightened my morning. I have studied your proposal with care and, while I will not be participating, would like to offer you some sincere advice. You could be a far more successful international crook if your emails to your targets were written in coherent and convincing English.

As this one stands, however, it is so wretchedly bad that anybody can see that you are trying to pull a scam. It just so happens that I provide a professional writing and editing service, which is just what you will need to realise your desire to expand the reach of your commercial initiative.

It is only fair to point out that, since you are self-evidently a crook, I will require payment of GBP100 [or USD150, if you prefer] in advance. On receipt, however, I will be delighted to help you to write a better, and far more plausible, email which I am certain will greatly improve your conversion rate of targets to victims. I am confident that exciting frauds such as yours would be far more lucrative if only they were written correctly.

I very much look forward to our establishing a fruitful business relationship.

Y’know, some of the (remarkably few) replies I received were really quite hurtful 😉


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