How you can make over $290 million a week through email scams

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

How you can make over $290 million a week through email scams

I just took a couple of weeks off work. One of the nice things about not being self-employed, is that I get paid even while I’m on holiday. But imagine if I wasn’t? How would I find two pennies to rub together?

Well, don’t panic! For help is at hand from your email inbox.

I decided to check out the offers of money I received in one of my email accounts during just the last week. Note – this wasn’t my Sophos email account (so the number of financial offers I received is not indicative of my public email details being easy to find) , but another address that I keep for personal use.

419 scam

First up was Mr William Anodu, who said that he would send me $5000 daily until I received a total of $850,000. All I had to do was send his associate, Dr Robert Gilton, a copy of my driving license. Brilliant!

The Federal Government of Royal Kingdom of Benin Republic offered to send me $15,500,000 (minus a $168 handling charge). Marvellous!

Running total: $16,349,832

Rev. Dr. Jery Smith wanted me to take $1.5 million off his hands. It wasn’t entirely clear as to why he would want me to do this for him – but I’m not complaining. Super!

A representative of a Netherlands bank identified me as the rightful heir to a fortune owned by a victim of the Concorde air crash gaining me some 7,467,000 Euros ($10,983,210). Glorious!

Lottery ballsMr Mike Billy emailed me on behalf of the UK National Lottery (via their Hotmail address) informing me that I had won £750,000 ($1,187,700). Ace!

Sayed Sabdin of Sony Ericsson emailed me (from their Hong Kong-based Yahoo address) to tell me that I had won $71,000,000 in their prize draw. Blimey! That’s huge. Huzzah!

Mrs Anne Peace of Euromillions Loteria Espana contacted me to say that I was the lucky winner of the September 2009 draw.

Unfortunately she forgot to mention how much I had won, but did urge me to “donate not less than 10% of your winning to any internationally recognized charity home closer to you so that a lot of the less privilege once can feel our contribution.” Herumph!

Nevertheless, Sony Ericsson’s generosity has bumped up my kitty considerably and I’ve stormed past the $100,000 mark..

Running total: $101,020,742

Cigarettes. Image source: bachmont's Flickr photostream (Creative Commons 2.0)The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated me for winning their campaign to encourage smokers to quit or reduce their smoking habit.

I agree that I deserve the £3.2 million award ($5,067,520) award as I’ve never puffed once, so this is the cat’s pyjamas!

Mrs Lucy Allen got in touch saying that she was suffering from cancer. 59-year-old Lucy said she would be going in for an operation and although she prayed that she would survive she was wondering if I would be prepared to donate $6,400,000 of her money to charity. (She says she is too weak and fragile to do it herself, and assures me it’s not a scam) Hallelujah!

Mr Song Li of the Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong is trying to shift $19.5 million. For my assistance he has offered me 30% of the funds (so that’ll be $5,850,000). Groovy!

Mrs Tina Akira of the Yahoo International Lottery Organization (working in alliance with the Thai Government Lottery Board) got in touch, with the great news that I had won $1,000,000. Sensational!

Yahoo lottery website

Running total: $119,338,262

Attorney Ramon Brontons reached out to me after his client lost his life in Iraq, leaving $14,500,000 in his account. The generous barrister was prepared to share 50% of the booty with me (so that’ll be $7,250,000). Magnificent!

A director of the Central Bank of Nigeria must have made a mistake with his paperwork, because he emailed me saying I was entitled to $10,700,000 according to a contract sitting on his desk. All I would have to do is share my personal information, drivers license and details of nearest airport. Magic!

Robert Pepei Smith, a co-ordinator with the Australian International Lottery, contacted me from his Yahoo account informing me that I was one of 8 lucky winners, each of which would be receiving $1,000,000. Awesome!

Mrs Oluremi Babalola writes on behalf of the Nigerian president. Apparently they want to send me $750,000 in gratitude because of all the great work people like me are doing to beat internet fraud. Wicked!

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Running total: $139,038,262

The curiously-named Philip Chris, a director in an unnamed British financial institution, dropped me a line from an Argentinian email address offering me a share in a $52,000,000 inheritance.

Philip Chris spam

Mr Chris says I can have 50% (so that’ll be $26,000,000) from the dormant account of a man who lost his life in an Alaska Airlines aircrash. It feels inappropriate considering the tragedy of the case but – Yeehah! I’m happy to take my share.

Mrs Janet Brown has also been diagnosed with cancer and wants to donate her money to charity. Naturally she’s chosen to release the $10,000,000 funds to me. Wonderful!

It’s a similar story from Mrs Maria Johnson – who has $10,500,000 waiting for me to share with charities. Nifty!

Mrs Rose Williams thanks me for the help in transferring funds in the past (my memory clearly isn’t what it was..) and will get her secretary to send me a cheque for $800,000 once I reply with some of my personal information. Fine and dandy!

Running total: $186,338,262

Dr Gidai sends his apologies for emailing me out of the blue, but he has $38.5 million in a Nigerian bank account that he would like to move overseas. He’s prepared to give me 30% ($11,550,000) for my efforts. Swell!

Diplomat Roy William says he is waiting at JFK International Airport in New York, and wants to bring funds totalling $10,100,000 to my house once I confirm my identity. I wonder if he also knows Diplomat Frank Hansen, who is also hanging out at the airport with an identical amount of money for me ($10,100,000). Two cheers! Hip hip hooray!

And that double-whammy means I have now made over $200,000!

Running total: $218,088,262

Irish shamrockBut there’s more!

Malik Hussein, the son of an assassinated Sierra Leonese gold merchant, sent a trunk full of cash to Dublin, Ireland. Malik says he was let down by his business partner who demanded 50% of the trunk’s $20,000,000 contents.

However, he would be prepared to share it with me instead if I only wanted $4,000,000. The good news is that the transaction is apparently “100% risk free”. Neat!

Mrs Jessy Mariae Mirinda, Minister of Finance for the West African country of Benin, wants to transfer $1,500,000 million into my bank account. Cool!

A fund of £15,000,000 ($23,754,000) is burning a hole in the pockets of Lloyds Florish Finance who got in touch wanting to transfer it into my bank account. Peachy!

Running total: $247,342,262

Gold barsAnita Pujeh, the wife of Sierra Leone’s former Minister of Transport and Communications Momoh Pujeh, needs to get rid of 40kg of gold bars to support her in the style to which she’s become accustomed.

She doesn’t suggest a price – but I asked the folks on Twitter, and they thought £1.49 per kg was a fair price (which means I would have to fork out a grand total of $94.40). But how much is the post and packing going to cost? I’m going to have to decline this one for now.

“Are you still alive?”. That was the disturbing question from the Nigerian branch of the International Monetary Fund Agency who had heard that I was critically sick and requiring funds for an urgent kidney operation. They don’t say how much money they have to offer me, bah!

Hmm.. that’s twice in a row now that I haven’t been able to add to my coffers.

But there is some good news. It looks like the late Jurgen Krugger has left me $30,100,000 as a beneficiary in his will. Hunky dory! That’s more like it!

On a sad note, Derek Rolfe tells me that he has prostate cancer. It’s obviously becoming fashionable in such horrible situations to donate large amounts of money to charity – and I’m just the man to help him! $1,600,000 is winging its way to me. Fab!

Running total: $279,042,262

David Nikos Philip from Greece is in similar predicament. In Phil the Greek’s case he has Oesophageal cancer and $5,000,000 that he’d like to me to distribute to charities on his behalf. Even better – he’s prepared to pay me a reward for my help! Beauty!

Kofi AnnanThe International Commercial Bank of Ghana has made an “excess profit”, and are asking my assistance to help them transfer $3.5 million. I can keep 30% for my efforts, so that’ll be $1,050,000. Ace!

Excess profit seems to be a big problem in the banking industry, despite the credit crunch, as Dr Martin Hamilton has contacted me regarding a fund of £10 million.

Dr Hamilton, who is the manager of HSBC’s Central South East branch in London wants to give me 20% (a paltry $3,167,200, surely the going rate is 30%?) for my assistance. Well, I’m not going to grumble – Supa-dupa!

The delightfully named Spiff Barigo from Ghana’s Ecobank made me a business proposal offering me 40% of $4,750,000 (in other words $1,900,000 – that’s a spiffing percentage!) if I help him move the cash out of the country. Splendiferous!

And finally, Kofi Annan, former secretary of the United Nations, dropped me a note from his Gmail account telling me that I had been awarded $100,000 in compensation for all the terrible scams that spread across the internet, conning people by offering riches beyond belief.

Thanks Kofi! What a great way to end such a rewarding week!

Grand total: $290,259,462

In total I calculate I made a spectacular $290,259,462 in a week, without having to do very much at all. It looks like there are many individuals out there who are just dying to throw money in your direction for lotteries you never entered, and inheritances from people you’ve never heard of.

Of course, my winnings are assuming that all of the emails I received can be trusted, and aren’t scams designed to steal my identity or con me out of paying “administration fees” before the riches can be transferred into my accounts.

You might be wise enough not to fall for confidence tricks like these – but the only reason the scammers spam out these campaigns is that occasionally they do hook someone who is elderly or vulnerable who can’t tell the difference between a genuine windfall and a cold-hearted scam.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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