Whimsy

Apologies, Ms Adams, but I Have My Suspicions

Scams are in the news again. It is, then, right and proper to share one’s knowledge of them; not only as a warning, but also to remind the reader that the world is full of folk keen to dupe the gullible. Although this particular scam did not end well, at least for one party, Shakespeare hit the wail on the head in All’s Well that Ends Well:

The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues. — Act 4, scene 3

On October 5 a while ago I received an unsolicited email from a person identifying as Charity Adams. This Charity was not a hostess at the Fandango Ballroom, as in the 1969 movie. Nevertheless, she came across as optimistic as the original Sweet Charity. As we shall see, she too had her share of misfortunes with the men in her life and – assuming she was a she – was, like Miss Austen, looking for Mr Right and a large fortune, not necessarily in that order.

At the time I was working in the precious metals business. Our group provided investment advice, mainly to the rich, sometimes to the erudite, but never to the famous. The company motto: Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi. In other words, “our gold is not ordinary gold”, or fool’s gold.

Someone once offered us use of a military airport in Indonesia if we could arrange a cash-on-delivery shipment of ten tonnes of the stuff; another wanted a mere fifty tonnes delivered somewhere north of Luang Prabang, or at Lantouy on the Laotian-China border, but that’s another story. And no, we couldn’t help them.

But to return to my story, Miss Adams probably was more familiar with the saying: “a fool and his gold are soon parted”. Anyone with the word “gold” in a domain name, of course, was – and still is – a prime scammer target.

The email subject line contained only one word: HELP. It came from a Yahoo address in France. Given the creativity displayed by Miss Adams, it is worth sharing the text here, verbatim et literatim:

Dearest Michael Kile,

It is my pleasure to write you after much consideration since telephone communication cannot be suitable enough to communicate to you at first.

Being the only daughter of my father, the late Chief GLEBART ADAMS from KWANATAL ZULU in Republic of South Africa (SA), I am 23 years of age.

My father was a limited liability Cocoa and Gold merchant in JOHANNESBURG South Africa before his untimely death. After his business trip to Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire to negotiate on a cocoa and gold business, he wanted to invest in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

A week after he came back from Abidjan, he was attacked with my mother by unknown assassins. My mother died instantly, but my father died after five days in a private hospital on that faithful afternoon. I didn’t know that my father was going to leave me after I had lost my mother.

Before he gave up the ghost, it was as if he knew he was going to die. He, my father, MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE, disclosed to me that he deposited the sum of $15,800,000 US dollars (FIFTEEN MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) in a bank here in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The money was meant for the cocoa and gold company he wanted to establish in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire…. Now I am soliciting for your assistance to help me to transfer this money out from Abidjan to your safe account abroad. We will invest it in any meaningful lucrative business in your country because this is my only hope in life.

Awaiting anxiously to hear from you so that we can discuss the modalities of this transaction.

Please kindly contact me through the above email immediately for more discussion.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely

CHARITY ADAMS

Three days later, by chance or demonic design, an advertisement in The Economist caught my eye. The International Cocoa Organisation was searching for a Librarian, “based in the Duty Station of Abidjan, Côte d-Ivoire. Tenure: five years, with the possibility of an extension.” A competitive tax-free salary, based on Grade P.1/2, would be offered to the successful applicant, in addition to other ex gratia benefits, presumably including choice of weapon, night goggles, free ammunition, pre-paid funeral expenses and all the chocolate you could consume while there.

What more could one want in a mad world than Miss Charity and chocolate? I thought for a moment, broke another dark Kit-Kat, then I pressed the DELETE button.

So if on a “faithful afternoon” you receive such an email, do stop, think and read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest Targeting Scams report. Australians lost at least $3.1 billion to scams last year, an 80 per cent increase on losses in 2021. The report was based on data compiled by ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX), IDCARE and other government agencies. Investment scams were the highest loss category ($1.5 billion), followed by remote access scams ($229 million) and payment redirection scams ($224 million).

The country’s biggest losers, however, are elsewhere. More than $25 billion is lost each year on legal forms of gambling, excluding cock-fighting, two-up, etc.

Charity, surely, should begin at home.

Michael Kile keeps a bemused eye on the world from his Perth home

21 thoughts on “Apologies, Ms Adams, but I Have My Suspicions

  • DougD says:

    There was a case a few years ago involving a number of greedy and stupid people from Surfers Paradise who lost millions in a traditional Nigerian letter scam. The surprising thing was that the ACCC decided to waste public money suing their banks for compensation for them.

    • Lewis P Buckingham says:

      Well the CBA has closed that loophole.
      Effective 15th May 2023 ….
      ‘An unauthorised transaction does not include any transaction that is performed by you or anyone else with your knowledge and consent. For example , a transaction as a result of a fraudster tricking you into giving them your access codes, is not an unauthorised transaction.’
      They then say they comply with the ePayments Code to determine ‘your liability’ for losses.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    There are a few good ones around, the Nigerian ones are old hat now, so too the one from a firm of solicitors in Spain or France or Germany who represented a family fortune of many millions in Ireland and tracked down the only surviving family member. The very best one so far, at least from an old person’s perspective, is the one purported to be from “My Gov.” informing you that “My Gov.” made an accounting mistake and owes you $189.35 or some such so click on the link and confirm your bank details etc. etc. The cent amount tacked on the end lulls one for only a Govt. would nit pick about a few cents. The irony of it is that most of we older folk are not computer literate, we have been stuffed around from pillar to post by “My Gov.” either hanging on to a ‘phone for over and hour or attempting to fill in forms via the internet without success, so an “easy click on the link” to get a few bob is attractive until yr bank accounts empty.

  • Daffy says:

    Scammers seem to rely on a few ‘filters’. Firstly, if a person buys their stupid story, they demonstrate that they are a potential mark. Only a fool would imagine that some rich buffoon from another country would bother with them. The rich have their own well worked networks. Game on!

    The other popular filter is ‘diversity’. That is, they will, by convergence of circumstances, occasionally get a lucky break. Everything will seem to line up.

    So it was with moi. I had just used a hire car to tootle down a non-free motor way, and was unsure as to how payment worked. A few days later I received an SMS message that something was amiss with my toll account and I should click this link. Hang on, YES! I did think something might be amiss with my toll account.

    But. Did I click the link? No, no, no! I rang the kind toll people and distracted an operator from her own scam, harvesting millions from motorists. She assured me that ‘Tolls-are-us’ does not send links by SMS for any reason, ever, at any time and never.

    I later discovered that I’d dodged a scam.

    Whew.

    • Lo says:

      Yes I got that one too and as we had accidentally got onto a Melbourne tollway two weeks before I nearly fell for it. But I had paid the $17, showed on my bank statement, so I didn’t go along with the other purported $7.90.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    Thankfully all I seem to do is click on spam on emails.
    But they still come.
    They are clever and watching.
    Recently because of an event in life I received a closely targeted e mail.
    ‘Relatives’ and ‘friends’ are continually sending me pictures which ‘they really should have sent before and they are sorry for the delay’, a bit like those ubiquitous ‘apologies’ published by Woolworths because they are out of stock in some obscure product.
    ‘They’ clearly are tracking my family and friends.
    Putting ad blockers on everything reduced the flow.
    The more cyber security goes after these people the better for us all.
    Just as reducing petty crime on the streets of NY slowed down major crime,combating these phishers would do the same.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    This reminds me of that classic story of the education of John D. Rockefeller, in his day reputed to be the richest man in the world.
    By this account, John D.’s father was a 2-bit snake oil salesman who operated on the county fair circuit in the US. At the beginning of each week, John D.’s father would give young John D. a dime. Then he would spend the rest of the week using every trick he knew to chisel young John D. out of it. So by the age of 24, young John D. not only knew every trick in the book; he also owned Standard Oil of New Jersey.
    But here’s the catch: before he went to bed each night, he would summon his Chief Accountant for a report. If that worthy gentleman could not tell him his total personal wealth, down to the last dime, John D.’s house physician had to be summoned to administer a sleeping draught to John D. Such was John D.’s obsession with dimes.
    John D. also took great delight in having his flunkeys carry dimes by the sackload wherever John D. went, so that the said John D. could amuse himself handing them out to all the kids he encountered.
    There is probably some psychological term for John D.’s condition, but whatever it was, he had it in spades.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    Sura Arafat emailed me from Paris about five years ago, requesting assistence to gain release of billions held in a Swiss account of her dear departed husband, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient. I replied but she didn’t respond. Perhaps someone else was a little quicker on the uptake than me and is stiill enjoying the couple of hundred thousand commission. It seemed a bit rude though to not achnowledge my offer to help. But it was at lest gratifying to find her departed husband had at last joined the ranks of his fellow international scammers. Or was he the leader of that coterie?

  • gareththomassport says:

    Surely the biggest scams of all are perpetuated by our governments in getting Australian taxpayers to cough up hundreds of billions of dollars to build windmills in order to change the weather.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Scams have become more sophisticated today.
    Like Mr O”Hooligan above, I’ve received a couple of bogus My Gov emails, as well as fake emails and SMSs purporting to be from Telstra and Amazon.
    A BBC podcast last week shone some light on a big cryptocurrency trading scam that was advertising on UK/EU football club sites. It mentioned losses of at least a billion dollars. North Korea apparently funds its nuclear program from crypto scam profits.

  • Lo says:

    There is a dark chocolate Kit-Kat? Or is it a scam?

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      Dunno but I was eating one at the open air picture theatre at the BSD (base supply dump from Yankee times during WW2) in The Isa on October the 4th in 1957 when Sputnik went over for the first time. My wage was five quid a week back then and I had just sent a postal note for ten bob to a mob advertising a way to cut your bills in half and they had posted me a picture of a pair of scissors so scams have been around for a long time. A cynic might opine that “wimmen” are the experts at scamming since one conned Adam into the apple affair!

      • Lewis P Buckingham says:

        My late father told me of one in the UK, a sure way to kill cockroaches.
        Having sent your money you received a small box with instructions.
        In it were two blocks .
        One marked A and the second marked B.
        The instructions read
        ‘Place cockroach on block A.
        Strike Block A with Block B.
        Repeat.
        Another was the response by Royal Mail to a broken parcel.
        They would say it was packed too loosely.
        If one wrote back and said it was wrapped properly they
        replied that it must have been packed too tightly.

    • Alice Thermopolis says:

      Yes, Lo, there is indeed a DARK KitKat. Cocoa from Ecuador and of course Cote d’Ivoire. For an intense flavour with a lingering taste, try the one with Tasmanian mint. ‘Help give the planet a break by recycling your wrappers in-store.”
      As for gambling, LBL, winning is indeed wonderful. There are, alas, many addicted players who eventually find themselves, like Dostoyevsky, on a road to ruin. He wrote a book about it titled The Gambler, as well he might, having signed away the rights to some of his yet-to-be-written books.
      Closer to home, couples have separated, and worse, because one partner turned out to be a secret addict, destroying a business and the relationship.

  • Bernie Masters says:

    The UK comedian Jo Lycett has some wonderfully funny stories to tell about how he out-scams the scammers. Well worth viewing his YouTibe videos.

  • lbloveday says:

    “More than $25 billion is lost each year on legal forms of gambling, excluding cock-fighting, two-up, etc”
    .
    It is not lost, it is spent, unless you claim money spent on other entertainment such as going to a movie or the football or enjoying a pint of beer is similarly lost. Gambling creates many jobs, contributes significantly to governments’ tax hauls, enables athletes to indulge their passion full time and receive a high income…..
    .
    Bookmakers sites now feature banners such as:
    “What’s Gambling Really Costing You?”
    “Imagine what you could be buying instead”
    “Think. Is this a bet you really want to place?”
    .
    I presume the bureaucrats and politicians mandating such while imposing and increasing POC and turnover taxes and wasting tax money to run such patronising sites as gamblinghelponline.org.au do not realise that the vast majority of punters are not morons and that extra costs to bookmakers are reflected in reduced odds and so punters win less or lose more as a consequence.
    To say that bookmakers, not punters, pay turnover tax is as dishonest as saying that Coles, not customers, pay GST.
    .
    The 1978 British Royal Commission on Gambling concluded: “The objection that punters are wasting their time is a moral, or possibly an aesthetic, judgement. Punters have chosen to enjoy themselves in their own way and we think that in a free society it would be wrong to prevent them from doing so merely because others think they would be better employed in digging the garden, reading to the children or playing healthy outdoor sport”.
    .
    Phil Bull, editor of Timeform wrote “It is an arrogant impertinence for the socially fortunate, better educated, wealthier, more cultured members of society to look down on those less endowed, think them unworthy on that account, and presume to tell them what they should or should not enjoy”
    .
    Don Scott, punter extraordinaire wrote: “For many ordinary people who work in drab surroundings and perform routine and uncongenial tasks, punting offers the chance to make decisions, to give oneself identity, to boost the ego and prove oneself the shewest [sic] of judges”.
    .
    George Bernard Shaw said “Gambling promises the poor what property performs for the rich”
    .
    LBLoveday says “The greatest pleasure in life is to WIN”

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    April 24, 2023
    Promises, perhaps; but very, very, very seldom delivers. In the mean time, what could that money, actually INVESTED (even in a bank account, now that it actually pays more than a few dollars interest), have done for those same poor over the years? Or, for that matter, the middle class or rich?

    • lbloveday says:

      “..very, very, very seldom delivers”
      .
      That’s a lot of verys! But even one successful punter (and there are quite a lot) earning money is one more than earns money going to a movie or the football or enjoying a pint of beer.
      .
      There is very, very, very much more to life than a bank account.
      .
      I quit my tenured lecturing job, 4 day week, 49 days recreational leave pa, government superannuation… to be a gambler – no boss, no underlings, no customers, no business partner, no-one to blame or depend on other than myself; ideal for my personality. I trained a few young men (two referred to themselves as my apprentices) and they enjoyed winning very much.
      .
      Oh, and as a bonus, no income tax if you do it the right way. In line with ATO Ruling IT 2655,
      https://www.ato.gov.au/law/view/document?DocID=ITR/IT2655/NAT/ATO/00001&PiT=99991231235958
      “There is no Australian case in which the winnings of a mere punter have been held to be assessable (or the losses deductible)”.
      .
      So you get a Personal Ruling from the ATO which will state along the lines of:
      “The taxpayers betting activities constitute a hobby or pastime and not the necessary characteristics of a business. As such the taxpayer’s winnings are not taxable nor the losses deductible”.
      .
      It will likely also include along the lines: “This Ruling does not have the effect of law”, but as my lawyer mate said “That may be so, but the 3 Federal Court decisions summarised in IT 2655 sure as hell do”.
      .
      Then make sure you file a tax return each year ($0 in my case as I had no other investments). My tax agent (a mate, I kept using him to file the $0 returns) said to me one year “You know you should be paying Income Tax” (he was with me at the ATO interview re Personal Ruling!). My response “You don’t reckon the turnover tax is enough?”.
      .
      As an extra bonus, the $0 taxable income meant no Spousal Maintenance (euphemistically called Child Support).

    • lbloveday says:

      Took quite a while preparing my comprehensive response, but apparently did not pass muster. OWSH!

  • cbattle1 says:

    The core of the problem is one’s greed; the desire to get rich quick, get something for nothing, etc. The scammer is simply tapping into that human weakness. The best defense is to develop a moral sense of modesty, frugality, and contentment. Sermon over.

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