Two articles appear below:
1 Scams
2 Unsolicited Letters

This image: From IMSI's MasterClips/MasterPhotos 202,000 © 1997 Collection,
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(Investigator 158, 2014 September)


Nankervis (2014) reports: "Operation Disrepair, launched in May last year to target those who may have sent money overseas after being targeted by online scammers, found that South Australians have lost more than $2 million on 4261 transactions."

Although police sent warming letters and visited many potential victims, about a quarter continued to send money overseas!

Robertson (2014) reports that one Australian man lost $2 million that he sent to South Africa. Australia-wide people lost $89 million in 2013, but this statistic is conservative since many victims don't report their loss.


In "Internet Love Scams" the victims are people seeking love who think they have met their perfect partner. Instead they have only a fantasy manipulated by liars to extract their money from them.

The scammers, many based in Africa or Russia, use fake personality profiles, false stories, and attractive photos to suck people in.

Some scams are elaborate and online relationships are built with receptive victims that continue for years. A victim may think he is exchanging information with a teacher, student or office worker when all the time he's interacting with a criminal gang.

Scammers are experts at telling convincing stories to make victims feel obligated. One woman's online "Romeo" supposedly landed in an Asian prison and needed money to pay bribes to survive — and more bribes and more.

There have been cases of love-struck victims going to Africa to meet the person who supposedly finds them romantically irresistible and being kidnapped for ransom, robbed or murdered. Love-struck victims also often send private information and may later have this used to blackmail them.

Scammed people are sometimes scammed again: One woman: "sent $80,000 to a man she met on Skype [an instant messaging company] and lost another $400,000 to a 'lawyer' who said he would recover the cash." (Nankervis 2014)


A common type of online scam offers a lottery prize, or a gift from a dead or dying person, or a compensation payment, to be transferred to your bank account. The usual trick in such a case is that you need to pay a transfer fee to receive the free money.

If you send the fee there will be a further fee — and again and again. The idea is to get you acting like a gambler who makes more and more bets to try to win back previous losses.

Below, with poor grammar retained, is an example of how it may start:

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:43 AM

My name is Mrs. Margaret Crawford. I have been diagnosed with cancer few years ago immediately after the death of my husband who left me everything he had worked for. I have decided to donate from what I have inherited from my late husband to you for Charitable & Humanitarian cause rather than allow my greedy relatives to use my husband's hard earned funds in ungodly way. Please contact my attorney today with this email (…) for more information, my attorney, Mark Lawson will give you directives on how the funds should be willed and transferred to you. Make sure you contact my attorney with this email address: …

Some scammers' e-mails include a link to a newspaper report of someone who did win a lottery, or of a rich person who died recently, and claim to be that person or to represent him. Or perhaps it's not a genuine link but a means to give your computer a "virus" if you click on it! Some e-mails may have an "attachment" that you are asked to open for information on collecting prize-money for a lottery you did not even enter. Don't open the attachment.

For example

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Your email has just won $920,000.00 in lottery. Open attachment to view how the funds will be transferred to your bank account.

Often the e-mail comes with a warning that the letter is copyright and it is illegal to make copies. This helps to make it look legitimate and slows down the spread of knowledge about the scam to other Internet users. For example:

Please Keep it Green - Do you really need to print this E-mail?
This communication, including any attachments, may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information and is intended only for the individual or entity to whom it is addressed.  Any interception, review, dissemination or copying of this communication by anyone other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited and unlawful.  

If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender by telephone or reply E-Mail and delete all copies of the original message.


How would you regard a proposal involving $9 billion? I received it twice, 15 months apart!

Below are some e-mails I have received (bad grammar is left unedited]:


Mr.Chi Pui
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:21 AM

Good day, Am Chi Pui;Do not be surprised! I got your email contact via the World Email On-line Directory" I am crediting officer at Sino Pac Bank Plc in Hong Kong and i have a deal of $17.3M to discuss with you urgently.

Mr.Chi Pui


christy walton
Saturday, 22 February 2014 10:52 PM

Good day i am Mrs christy Walton

I brought to you a proposal worth $9,000,000,000.00 (Nine Billion United State Dollars) which i intend to use for CHARITY. Please reply me back if you are interested.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013 5:51 PM

How are you today?

I write to inform you that we have already sent you $5000.00USD through Western union as we have been given the mandate to transfer your full compensation payment of $1.800,000.00USD via western union by this government. I called to give you the information through phone as internet hackers were many but i cannot reach you yesterday even this morning. So, I decided to email you the MTCN and sender name so that can pick up this $5,000.00USD to enable us send another $5,000.00USD by tomorrow as you knows we will be sending you only $5,000.00USD per day…

Call or email us once you picked up this $5,000.00USD today. Here is the western union information to pick up the $5,000.00USD

MTCN : …
Sender's Name: Elaine Johnson


Dave and Angela Dawes
Monday, 28 January 2013 12:26 PM

Wonderful Friend,

This is a personal email directed to you.

I and my wife won a British Jackpot Lottery of £101 Million and our Lucky Star numbers were 5 and 8 We have decided to donate the sum of £1,000,000.00 Pounds to you as part of our own charity project to improve the life of just 8 lucky other individuals around the globe. send us an email via … so that we can send your details to the designated bank in charge of wire transfer proceedings.

You can verify this via the links below.
[Link deleted]


UN Donation …
Monday, 7 January 2013 5:26 PM

CONGRATULATIONS!!! We are pleased to inform you that, you have been selected for this year CNN United Nations International Donation. Your email address attached to ticket number 27522465896-532 with serial number 652-662 drew lucky number 7-14-18-23-31-45 was Awarded the sum of NINE Hundred And Fifty Thousand Great Britain Pounds (£950.000.00GBP). Your email is your online automatic ticket that qualified you for this draw, no tickets were sold. You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of £950.000.00GBP.

Do get back to us with your Name, Age and Country for more information on how to claim. Send details to…

Sincerely yours,
Executive Director Mrs. Elizabeth Harrison.


BC-49 …
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 6:54 PM

Your email address attached to Ticket Number 2832728-56 was Awarded the sum of Nine Hundred Thousand Great Britain Pounds (£900.000.00 GBP). Your email is your online automatic ticket that qualified you for this draw, no tickets were sold. Get back to us for more information on how to claim.

EuroMillions …
Monday, 10 December 2012 2:18 AM
Serial Number: 472976879
Amount Won: £850,000.00GBP

Congratulations, Your Email Was selected at random as one of the Lucky Winners for the 2012 end of Year EuroMillions National Lottery Promo, Please Contact the Below Details for Claim:

Name: Mr. Peter Jones
Email: …
Tel: …
You are advice to provide him with the following information:


Allen Large …
Friday, 5 October 2012 6:07 AM

Good Day,

I saw your email address during the course of my research today. my wife and I won a Jackpot Lottery 11.3 million in july and during the process my wife passed away as a result of cancer illness, we are donating the sum of 1 million dollars to 6 lucky individual over the world and if you received this email then you are one of the luck recipients and all you have to do is get back with is so that we can send your details to the payout bank.
Please note that you have to contact my private email for more information

You can verify this by visiting the web pages below.
[Webpage deleted]



The "Mr Chi Pui" of "Sino Pac" scam was widespread and I received at least three. There is a real bank called "SinoPac" founded in 1992 but it is not offering free gifts of $17.3million!

The lottery winners Dave and Angela Dawes are genuine. They won a UK lottery in 2011 and announced they would give twenty people ₤1million each. The email, however, is not from them but is an advance fee scam. Anyone who replies will be asked to send upfront fees to cover expenses — fees that for alleged legal reasons cannot be taken out of the donation but must be paid in advance.

If the initial fees are paid there will be more "fees" until the victim runs out of money or otherwise stops paying. The scammers also require victims to prove their identity by supplying personal information which may later be used for identity theft.


The Government website "Scam Watch" discusses scores of different sorts of e-mail and Internet scams. One scam, for example, is:

A new phishing email pretending to be from reputable energy companies is currently circulating, which claims you owe money for an outstanding gas or electricity bill. The email will ask you to click on a link to view or update your account and arrange payment via money transfer. If you click on the link, you risk infecting your computer with malware and having your personal information stolen. If you pay this ‘bill’ via money transfer, you will never see your money again.

Another useful website is "Hoax-Slayer" which has exposed e-mail and Internet scams since 2003.

To find more scam-fighting websites type "Scam Watch" into Google Search.


Scammers often gain victims' trust by referring to genuine news reports, genuine organizations, and may use genuine e-mail addresses which may be stolen and cloned. Sometimes the intention is to get you to open an attachment that installs malware on your computer.

The tricks scammers employ to get you to respond are becoming more sophisticated, but there are also scam-exposing websites with information to protect you.


Nankervis, D. Scammers in $2m grab from gullible, Sunday Mail, March 2, 2014, pp 14-15

Robertson, D. Call in the scam-buster, Sunday Mail, August 10, 2014, 18-19

Hoax Slayer
Scam Watch



(Investigator 158, 2014 September)

Scammers who tempt potential victims by offering to make them rich sometimes send letters through the post — e-mail is not their only method.

News of an inheritance from an overseas family member might be genuine. If so then you would probably either know the relative or know about him and it will all be done through legitimate legal channels. Be cautious about paying up-front fees overseas — get a lawyer to act for you.

Below is a letter from Italy requesting me to pretend to be a relative of a deceased person in Italy of same surname. The aim is to share the dead person's bank account. [Letter here omitted]

This is similar to many e-mails I've received offering a similar deal — pretend to be someone else or to be related to them so as to share a bank account. The current instance is different because my last name is used, and my home address, and the legal firm named on the letter exists in Italy.

Besides noticing the resemblance to some e-mail scams, I've also had a long-term interest in family research and my findings go back several centuries. Except for a cousin of my father who fought in Italy in World War II I have not discovered the slightest hint of any connection with Italy. Searches with Google and genealogical websites show the family name occurs in America and several European countries — but I've found none in Italy.

A further simple check would have been to e-mail a copy of the letter to the actual legal firm after getting their address from the Internet or phone book (not from the letter itself).

A letter from overseas offering to make you wealthy may be tempting. It may have credibility because the sender knows your name and address and seems to represent a genuine law firm. But watch out!