A farewell to alms

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My wife just received, out of the blue, a job offer to die for. At least, when I saw the job spec, my first question was “what did his last slave die of?” Let me introduce you to Mr. Paul Scott (who also goes by the names Andrea Jones, Tony Adams, and various other names mentioned in a long thread at 419legal.org). (Email edited for length, and comments inline.)

Sent: 14 April 2011 15:28

Oh really? We only got it in August. It must have got held up at the Internet Sorting Office.

Subject: Re: Personal Assistant Needed

Dear Applicant,

You contacted me applying for the position which was advertised. Do take time to go through this introductory mail and feel free to pass any questions on.

As it happens, my wife hasn't been applying for jobs anywhere, which rather gives it away that it's a scam. However, it seems that quite a few people have been falling for scams like this because the “job” has actually been advertised on job lists, or because its arrival has coincided with a time when they've been sending out job applications and maybe it looks like a happy coincidence.

I'm Paul Scott, 52, and a father of 2 wonderful kids, a successful entrepreneur and investor, a member of the RSD & Co. I'm also a research journalist and I travel every now and then within and outside the U.S working on various independent projects, this is why I need someone who can help keep up to date with all of my activities especially when I'm away and amidst my busy schedule.

Me too...

The position is part time and home-based meaning you can work most times from your home as long as you have a regular internet access. You are also hired on a trial basis for now until we are able to see how well we fit in, this however does not affect your weekly wage.

Most of your activities will be carried out locally and most official packages will be delivered via posts. You will be actively involved in my personal, business and financial life. In summary, your activities as my assistant amongst other things will include:

  • Acting as an alternative telephone correspondent;
  • Running personal errands, supervisions and monitoring;
  • Organizing and maintaining diaries, memos and making appointments;
  • Dealing with incoming email, faxes and post;
  • Carrying out background research and presenting findings;
  • A personal reminder for schedules, programs, flights and keeping me up to date with them as they come up;
  • Arranging travel and accommodation
  • Carrying out specific projects and research;
  • Taking on some of my responsibilities and working more closely with management and other staff related to me;
  • Making regular contacts and drop-offs on my behalf.
  • Handling and monitoring financial activities.
  • Processing and taking charge of weekly payments and purchases.
  • You will also be a part of my household and a helping hand to issues as they arise.
  • General clerical activities.

Basic wage is $400 a week.

$400 a week???? For all those activities???? Some of your aliases are offering $700 a week for less work. Well, I guess there is a recession...

Working with me is basically about instructions and following them, my only fear is that I may come at you impromptu sometimes, so I need someone who can be able to meet up with my irregular timings. There is also a very sensitive issue on trust, dedication and accountability which I believe will resolve itself as time goes on.

This is only an introductory email, as time goes on we should be able to arrange a proper meeting to get things started officially. I'm currently in England now for a project, however, I do have a number of things you could help me with immediately, prior to my arrival.

Cool. You could pop over for a cup of tea and some flexible positions. Oh, I forgot, you think we're in the U.S.

Due to the excessive number of responses to my ad, do provide the following details about yourself for my personal record update and to filter applicants;

Oh dear. We were just starting to feel special and it turns out you have no idea who we are. Could it be that you've sent out this message to lots of addresses off some scammers' mailing list? Well, of course it could... The list of required data is fairly long, so I'll stop there. “Scott's” English is better than most 419s (some of the variations at http://www.419legal.org/internet-scams-general-discussion/68457-employment-scam.html?drgn=1 are a lot more typical of the genre in tone and phraseology), if not as good as I'd expect from a real journalist.

But what's the scam? Many job scams are also Advance Fee Fraud (AFF). That is, the scammer requires some money upfront from the victim. And since this is probably not just one of many aliases, but one of many scammers using variations on the same scam, it would be naive to assume that it's always the same scam. But in at least one instance reported in that thread, it turned out that the scammer wanted the recipient to do a little money-laundering. You may think of money-laundering as being part of the more sophisticated economy associated with mainstream phishing, but the Lads from Lagos, as The Register often refers to them, are nothing if not versatile, and spotted its profit and cop-avoidance potential.

Ironically, 419s are also associated with a more literal “money-laundering” scam: the “wash wash” or “black money” scam involves persuading the victim that the scammer has a large quantity of banknotes that have been dyed black, and offering him a share of the proceeds in return for his investment in expensive chemicals required for the cleaning process. I haven't seen that one for a while, though.

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