419, or mere horseplay?

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Is your smartphone spying on you?
Is your smartphone spying on you?

My friend and colleague Urban Schrott drew my attention to a spam campaign that has been causing some hilarity over at ESET Ireland. The message has the subject “YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER,” and comes from someone who isn't sure whether their name is Spike Dwaggin or Dai Teatime (or possibly NIKITA…), and it runs like this:

As I sit here sipping a martini it is my regretful duty to inform you that you have been selected for assassination.

I am a professional assassin (I enclose my certificate of assassination as proof) and SMERSH have contracted me to assassinate you and have specifically paid extra for a particularly nasty death which makes it look like you died in a particularly bizarre sex game gone wrong; I had already bought the shire horse stallion (he's called Henry – picture attached), the lard and the dragon dildo (from Bad Dragon of course, I only use the very best tools) when I found out that you are innocent of the accuse, so I make out this time to contact you. Unfortunately international crime syndicates won't admit to mistakes and cancel the hit so I will be forced to carry out the assassination on you. Sorry about that old chap but rules are rules...

As it happens, I've seen quite a few 419s using this “I've been paid to kill you but I'm giving you a chance to pay me to turn the tables,” ploy in the past, but I've never seen a version with such a mish-mash of popular culture references:

  • James Bond and SMERSH (which actually existed, but was disbanded just after WWII)
  • The Beatles (and of course, Henry the Horse dances the waltz) and Catherine the Great
  • (La Femme) Nikita
  • The somewhat Saintly Toodle Pip!

And surely Dai Teatime (despite the murderous pun) must be either a friend of Bertie Wooster's or some kind of homage to ESET's former counselor for comment spammers, Letitia Teaspoon, now carrying on the good work at Small Blue-Green World.

In fact, I was inclined to think it was some kind of spoof rather than a genuine variant of this particular type of 419, but further checking on a scam-baiter forum indicated that the scammer is perfectly willing to take money from anyone who falls for this nonsense. And if you were wondering what a certificate of assassination looks like, it turns out to look like something designed on a Gameboy by a Pokemon with a propensity for doing unspeakable things to goats. Yes, one of the scam-baiters asked Spike (is that a Buffy reference?) to supply it, since it wasn't attached to the original mail. 

It's hard to imagine anyone taking this seriously, but it's been circulating for a while, and not only in Ireland, so either the scam works often enough for the scammer to think it still has some mileage, or else he's letting it run while he works on his next persona: Conan the Barbarian, perhaps, or Doc Ock, or possibly Kraken D'Waggin.
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