A scam letter! Warn your vulnerable loved ones to be on their guard

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

A reader recently sent me a scan of a letter he received.

Here it is, redacted to preserve his anonymity.

Dear [name redacted]

My name is Wai Fei, and I write today to discuss the unclaimed inheritance of 11 million USD. At this point, I must ask that you deal with this matter with highest discretion, as the content of this letter is not trivial. I am sending this letter with confidential internet local auto-mailer service.

In 2004, a person with whom you share common name; Mr [name redacted] invested funds with the Hong Kong investment house I work with. During the time, we spread the funds across diverse local opportunities to make significant returns. In 2005, he instructed that the initial sum ($11m) be liquidated for a cash investment in Beijing. For this we contacted the mainland Shengjing Bank, to convey the money for a cash delivery. Only last year, the Shengjing Bank disclosed that the money remains unclaimed.

Upon investigations, we discovered that Mr [name redacted] died in Jiangxi shortly after transfer was made. Investigations reveal no kin exist to claim this money, and this is the reason we can consider this a life changing opportunity.

Since I have access and control to his source file, my plan is to insert documents that prove you are bona fide beneficiary to the inheritance. I will do this, and Shengjing Bank will have to release funds to you. I expect they carry out verification. This is no problem because it will based on information, I provide to CTBC. Shengjing Bank will have no choice but to make payment in full to you in a matter of days.

You may not understand how this can happen, but it is 100% achievable and legal. But you must agree to do an equal split with me. This is more than generous because you cannot achieve this without me. If we do not go for this, funds will be deemed unclaimed and it will go to coffers of the Chinese government. I assure you; we can achieve this quick and simple.

Please as am a family man and I take some risk to contact you like this. But I know in life you have to take any available chance to succeed. If we can agree, we should do this today.

If you can agree on the split, let us act swiftly. Please contact me today by my email [redacted].

Thank you.

Wai.

I hate to break it to you, but if you receive a letter like this you are not going to make a single penny. In fact it’s possible that you will find yourself out of pocket when the sender tricks you into wiring them funds.

My guess is that many people would (quite rightly) identify this as a scam if it arrived in their inbox, and quickly press “delete.”

But my hunch is that although most folks would similarly consign the letter to their wastepaper basket if it arrived in their letterbox, there is probably a slightly larger percentage of folks who would be more trusting simply because it arrived via an old-fashioned letter rather than an email.

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The good news is that if scammers are having to use techniques like this to get in front of potential victims, anti-spam defences and user awareness about email scams must be better than ever.

The bad news is that if such letters continue to be sent, someone somewhere obviously thinks scams like this can still make them a tidy profit.

Be on your guard against attacks and scams which reach you via unusual routes. And perhaps even more importantly, make sure that loved ones and vulnerable people who might be likely to fall for such fraud are also equally cautious.

If you have an elderly relative, for instance, who hasn’t spent much time on the internet they might be a lot less familiar with scams like this – and more likely to fall for it if it was delivered by their postman.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

7 comments on “A scam letter! Warn your vulnerable loved ones to be on their guard”

  1. @Graham, be very interested to know what statistically the uk levels of scams are, as you say better defences, action fraud reported last week 1000 PayPal scams reported in 24 hours this week 2000 Netflix scams emails reported, I'm hearing more about this DMARC system but how many uk businesses actually use it?

    So any chance you could possible knock on a few doors for some exclusive Cluley
    statistics you know Huzzah! a few people lol.

  2. I received one of these letters too. It's one thing to shotgun email addresses by the million with made-up names at valid domains, but worryingly this letter had my full postal address (I'm opted out of the open electoral register).
    On the "follow-the-money" route, it must be possible to identify part of the spam sending chain. The envelope had a pre-printed first class postage sticker with QR codes, for which *someone* must have paid Royal Mail the stated 61p.
    The sticker appeared to have been franked at the Greenford/Windsor mail centre.
    Happy to scan and send an image of the postage marks…

  3. Just imagine that there really was 50% of $11m waiting to be '100% legally' scammed into your account. That's a little over £4m and you run the risk of getting on the wrong side of any number of agencies, companies, even the Chinese government apparently. You would still have the not insurmountable issue of the taxman being very curious to learn of your new found untaxed wealth. Even if it was real and I was that way inclined, it isn't enough. I can't even buy a nice sunny island and live out my days there for that 😄

  4. I had a similar letter through the post. I sent it to the Royal Mail fraud investigators, and received a "thank you".

    https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/303/~/how-to-report-scam-mail

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