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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dark Back Room of a Scammer

I happened upon a fascinating thing last night. I was trying to confirm the identity of a woman who was wanting to register with a message board community I manage. I was googling her name (she turned out to be legit) and I stumbled upon these files that had been left in an unprotected directory. They were kind of program "dumps" from wordpad.exe files and dialogues from chat sessions. I stumbled upon them because the woman I was searching on - her email was found within one of these dumped files.

When I started looking through these files (and there were many in this unprotected directory), I realized I had stumbled upon the files of a scammer. Spread across a number of files, were all the actual email addresses they were sending their scam out to (I estimated there were about 20,000 email addresses), with the content of the scams. It looked like they sent their scam out via over the course of about 3 days and what was interesting was this scammer was not focused on just one scam within this emailing. They were sending out 3 different types of scams at one time to the list. They had the usual someone died and has a gazillion dollars in a trust and they are looking for beneficiaries scam, they had the they have prize money you've won that they need to send you scam, and they were also the scam of getting people to send money to help a sick and dying relative (the woe-is-me scam).

What was also fascinating to me was there seem to be a dump of chat conversations they were having with their potential victims who had written to them to ask if they were legitimate. One about-to-be victim was asking how does he know this is for real, can they provide proof - and the scammer had a ready-made answer for the victim to move them to next stage of the scam. And there was this whole back-and-forth chat dialogue with a victim where the scammer seem to be pretending to HELP them contact the FBI (and then in a timestamp that was less than 30 seconds later, another 1000 emails of the scam would go out).

I had never seen the underpinnings of a scammer's process like this before. It made me feel sad, and dirty. I needed to take a shower after reading all that. And frustrated, because I know there is no way to actually stop them from sending these emails. All I can do is shine a light on their dark slimey ways and provide one voice to help educate the receivers of these emails to trust their gut and recognize these as scams from the get-go.

So if you are ever wondering why you get so many of these emails? Well, it turns out that it is very likely a single source is sending a bunch of different ones... and then multiple that by all the scammers out there! That's why there are so many.

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