Posted by: David Harley | September 18, 2015

419s: This Time it’s (not very) Personal

Disclaimer: this little article refers to two blog articles published by ESET Ireland, part of the company that provides me with a good proportion of my income. The article is not intended to promote either ESET’s products or the DoneDeal classified ads site. I’m blogging it because the first of those two articles, despite the outrageous frankly-acknowledged clickbait in the title, describes an interesting variation on an otherwise fairly standard 419 (advance fee fraud) scam email, while the second article incorporates some good generic advice. That is, advice that isn’t promotional or specific to DoneDeal.

Urban Schrott’s more recent article describes how one of his colleagues, advertising his car on DoneDeal, was contacted directly by a scammer who quasi-personalized the scam by using the car sale as a hook. In fact, the reference to the car is pretty perfunctory.


Thanks for your email concerning your offer. The offer is just a minor objective of my contacting you but am going to buy it at your selling price.’

In fact, the car had already been sold, and you may notice that the article refers to ‘the offer’ rather than ‘the car’, suggesting that the message is actually boilerplate text sent out to multiple recipients. Still, it may well attract the attention of some recipients long enough to be drawn into the scam – not only are they promised 30% of nearly 20 million dollars, but they get to sell their car/furniture/whatever.

From that point on, the message is of a type you may be familiar with, purporting to be from an American soldier needing help in transferring funds from Afghanistan. The English isn’t bad, though there are some errors ‘I have summed up courage to contact you’ that suggest that English wasn’t the writer’s first language. I particularly like the writer’s description of the misfortunes he’s experienced:

‘No compensation can make up for the risk we have taken with our lives in this hellhole, and I have been shot, wounded and survived two suicide bomb attacks by the special grace of God. ‘

Talk about guilt-tripping… Let us know next time you’re shot or bombed, Tim, and we’ll send you a bunch of grapeshot. Sorry, grapes.

Of course, if the recipient is naïve enough to fall for this tat, he or she will find that he needs to send various sums in advance so that the mythical money can be forwarded to him. There have been instances in the past where victims have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars (and more) but have (of course) never received a penny (or a cent).

Urban’s earlier article expands on DoneDeal’s own advice on scam avoidance and safety. If you’re not familiar with 419s and the other scams associated with classified ad sites, Urban’s article and DoneDeal’s advice are all worth reading.

There are, of course, many scams directly associated with buying and selling on the internet, but clearly it’s also worth looking out for other types of scam using sites like DoneDeal’s to reach potential victims, using what might at first glance seem to be a personal(ized) message.

David Harley

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