We all know that there are scammers telling you that you won in the lottery. A lot of security people think that the victims are naïve and dumb. We just started to run a story on lottery scam and part of it was an interview with a victim.
The victim – let’s call him “Mr. Ericson” to protect his privacy, was a former bank manager and definitely is an intelligent and up to a certain point vigilant person. However, during the whole lottery scam he lost all his retirement savings and had to go back to work in order to survive. This is a very, very sad story and shows how ruthless these people are. The interesting thing was how they actually tricked him into losing about € 61’000. I saw the raw interview and it really makes you think. So, a friend of mine summarized the way they tricked him (read through it – it is worth it!):
‘Mr. Ericson’ – Victim of Advance Fee Fraud
On 23rd October 2006, Mr. Ericson received a personally addressed email telling him that he had won a prize of £500,000 in a lottery draw. It was the first time Mr. Ericson had seen a mail of this type and as it referenced a well-known company brand, and was addressed to him personally, he did not question its authenticity.
The email gave Mr. Ericson instruction to contact his designated fiduciary agent, to whom he was to provide his details, including full name and phone number. He replied as instructed and on 25th October, 2006 he received a reply in which he was told that he needed to pay an administration fee of £541.10 to start the process of claiming his prize, and that this would go towards couriering the prize money to his address. He was told that this payment was reimbursable. He was also asked to pay £1,620 in non-resident tax, which he did on 28th October 2006. Mr. Ericson was instructed to make these and future payments were made through Western Union.
On 1st November, 2006 Mr. Ericson was contacted by a man posing as an official from a UN anti-terrorist unit in Bangkok, who told Mr. Ericson that he would also have to pay a security deposit of US$14,600 to claim his prize money. The bogus UN official also told Mr. Ericson that he would be contacted by a Mr. MacRoberts, a legal attorney in London, to discuss ‘attorney fees’ once this payment was made. Mr. Ericson paid the supposed security deposit on 2nd November 2006 .
On the 7th November, 2006 the scammer posing as a legal attorney contacted Mr. Ericson and asked for a further £3,102 in attorney fees, with the promise of this payment would also be reimbursable. This payment was made the day after, only for the scammer to make contact again to ask for £1,522 in processing fees the following day. At this stage the scammers were contacting Mr. Ericson via telephone, thanking him for his payments, enthusing about his win and good fortune, and informing him about next steps. The people that Mr. Ericson was in contact with were always very polite. Despite the English-sounding names, all but one of the scammers spoke English with distinct foreign accents.
Chronology and detail of payments
In addition to payment requests covering legal fees, administration charges etc., the scammers also asked Mr. Ericson for a series of ‘Guarantee Payments’ between 17th November and 12th December, 2006 to guarantee that the prize money was paid out. Mr. Ericson felt reassured as a result of the conversations he had had with ‘attorneys’ and other ‘officials’. He paid the following amounts:
Finally suspecting that something was wrong, Mr. Ericson went to his local police on 6th December, 2006. The police told Mr. Ericson that he was being deceived and told him to stop making payments. They said as the payments had been made abroad, there was not much they could do to help.
By this time, Mr. Ericson was hooked and had become emotionally reliant on the scammers and the fact that they could make all his dreams come true. Despite going to the police, he still felt deep down that the scammers were authentic. However, after the last payment of £2,500 on 12th December, 2006 Mr. Ericson’s life savings had gone. He told the scammers he had no more available funds and that he would not be able to continue the payments. He was then told that if he made one final payment of £4,600 the prize money would be released. Mr. Ericson did not make this payment.
On 11th April 2007, Mr. Ericson received a cheque from ‘attorney’ Mr. Mac Roberts for £7,700, followed by another a few days later for £9,200. Mr. Ericson was told to that these cheques were to help him make a final insurance cover payment of £24,000 ‘insurance cover’. Mr. Ericson paid the cheques into his account and from his own funds sent £16,900 to the scammers to cover the insurance fees. Three weeks later he was informed by his bank that the two cheques he had been sent had bounced.
Mr. Ericson confronted the scammers over the phone, one of whom admitted that ‘he felt ashamed’ and that he would repay him. Needless to say, Mr. Ericson has not received any of his money back and has not heard from the scammers since. He and his wife are working towards putting the experience behind them. He lost a total of almost £46,000 (Euros 61,000, USD$90,000).
He was asked during the interview whether he never got suspicious and there were two remarkable statements he made:
- I already paid so much, I have to go the whole way
- All my money disappeared and I was desperately hoping to get the money in the end
So, we made a two minutes podcast on the whole story, you may look at here. Even though we were taking to the EFCC in Nigeria (again J), I would like to make it very, very clear that this is not a Nigeria only problem. Most of the scams are coming from other countries – not Nigeria.