Testing a scammer's grasp of the English language

26 November 2008

Scam emails are so blatantly obvious, it's difficult to understand how anybody might fall for them. The first telltale sign is a use of English language on a par with that of a four year old, and generally not the sort of thing you expect from well-educated ambassadors and the like. Admittedly, if our grasp of Nigerian or another African languages was as sophisticated, we'd probably consider ourselves Oxbridge scholars.

So how good is a scammer's grasp of English language? For instance, do they spot obviously infantile behaviour or do they cling on to any interest expressed, no matter how childish and rude, for dear life? There's nobody more childish and rude than the team at Bitterwallet, so we dug through the spam filter and started replying to our African brethren. There we found John Kwame and his generous offer of affordable gold dust:

Dear Sir/madam,
We the principal sellers are pleased to make this offer of AU Metal Gold/ Dust under the penalty of perjury and with full corporate and legal responsibility to the following terms and conditions.
1. Product : AU Metal (Gold)
2. Origin : Ghana West Africa
3. Type : Alluvial
4. Purity : 92.7%
5.Quantity: 500 kilos
Buyer or representative of the buyer is suppose to come down to (Accra-Ghana) for the inspection and random sampling of our Gold Dust. or make planes for the goods to be shipment to he/she destination.
We look forward to establishing a long lasting business relationship with you.
Mr John Kwame

We thought we'd start gently:

Dear Mister Kwame,

Apologies for the delay in contacting you. Our CEO exploded on Saturday morning and we are awaiting the appointment of a new executive.

Do you need to progress this transaction quickly? When would you like to complete the deal by?

Sincerely yours most sincerely,

Patrick Stewart (captain, retired)

Fearing we'd given the game away in our first email, we nervously waited to hear from John. We needn't have worried:

Dear Bitter Wallet,
Thank you for your mail. Yes I need to progress this first transaction quickly so that we can move on for the second transcation.
Since your CEO exploded on Saturday morning, when do you intend to have a new excutive and when you want to fly down to Ghana for inspection and pay for shipment cost and documentations?
I want you to tell me the exact date you are coming and also send me your flight schedules so that I will make arrangement to pick you up in the airport.
Thank you and God bless.
Waiting for your urgent response.
Warm Regards,
John Kwame

John didn't flinch. Perhaps an exploding CEO is an everyday occurance in Ghana. We may have under-estimated the situation:

Hello John,

Thank you for your kind words. The funeral takes place on Friday, although rescue workers are yet to locate his head and both elbows remain missing. We expect to elect the new CEO after that, however the likely replacement has shifty eyes. Would you be happy to carry out such a transaction with a man that has shifty eyes?

Also, what security would be in place for the inspection and transaction? I have heard that Ghana is not a safe place, and it's likely I'll have my face blown clean off my skull. Could you promise me this would not occur? Will there be guards and tanks, that sort of shizzle?

Quite literally yours most sincerely,

Patrick Stewart (captain, retired)

Balls, we'd done it again. We peaked too soon. There was absolutely no way he was going to fall for that:

Dear Patrick Stewart (captain, retired),
Thank you for your mail and may the soul of your CEO rest in perfect peace.
Please be informed that we are ready to transact business with any body that is serious and trust worthy.
We have a very serious security, there is nothing you should worry about.
Do let me know when you are coming.

Thank you and God bless

Oh. Well, let's keep going, we thought. So we did.

Dear John,

Thank you for your touching mail. I'm certain after the ferocity of the explosion, the CEO's soul is already resting in peace. If not, then the cleaners are still trying to scrub it off the walls. Awful business.

Are you sure you're ok with the shifty eyes? One of them is wonky, and he always looks like he's up to something. Like he's planning some sort of scam, or something.

Our most discourteous regards,

Patrick Stewart (starship captain, retired)

We'd resorted to obvious rudeness, but John Kwame was having none of it:

Dear Patrick Stewart (starship captain, retired),
How are you doing today?
I want to know exact time you will come to Ghana for the transaction.
I am asking you because I want this transaction to be conclude before presidential election will come up next month.
Send me your telephone number.

Waiting for your urgent response.
Warm Regards,
John Kwame

Such a polite and nice young man. We had no idea whether there was a presidential election coming up or not. Seemed plausible. We cracked on:

Hello John,

I am doing very well, although I was diagnosed with Shatner's Bassoon yesterday, which is troubling.

As soon as the CEO with the EVIL SHIFTY eyes is announced then you'll be the first to know when we travel. Assuming the EVIL, SOUL DESTROYING STARE from the EVIL HELL resting within his EVIL EYES of SIN and FURY don't somehow cause the plane to crash. You never know, do you?

Pathetically yours, as ever in this merry dance of tedium,

Patrick Stewart, Shakespearean actor from Huddersfield

John's reply was short and to the point. Did we suggest our less-than-honest intentions with the SHOUTY CAPS or the mention of Shakespeare?

Dear Patrick,
We are ready to receive you any you come.
thank you and God bless.
Regards,John Kwame

We were sad. John was a friend and, despite his broken English and our less than pleasant replies, he'd lost interest. Sorry John; you were a loyal scammer to the end, wasting your precious baiting time on us until it was too late. Thank you John, and God bless.

TOPICS:   Scams


  • vlcplayer
  • thebawp
    Hilarious, I'm tempted to try this myself. I did very nearly burst out laughing when reading of the evil soul destroying stare of your new CEO. Fantastic blog, keep up the stirling work!
  • mark
    Lucky you (BW), I have tried replying to those mails but never got any response, seems they must be really busy replying other emails down in Ghana.
  • Paul S.
    To be honest Mark, we tried replying to a couple of dozen emails, but John was the only one kind enough to reply. God bless his eternal soul.
  • Andy
    Genius, how come I never get any of these emails?
  • Peter
    If you fancy getting into the hilarious world of scambaiting take a trip on over to www.419eater.com and take a look at their forum. Lots of tips on how to bait safely (remember - these people may be dumb as a box of rocks but they are criminals and often have accomplices in the UK) and plenty of toys and fake forms for irritating your new pets.
  • Fraser
    Check out "Lions, Gold and Confusion" at www.bobservant.com/resources/Lions$2C+Gold+and+Confusion+SAMPLERpdf.pdf It's a couple of years old now but still hilarious.
  • Paul S.
    Superb superb superb.
  • minxlj
    "...will there be guards and tanks, that sort of shizzle?" Haha brilliant - I laughed out loud at that line. Just brilliant :-)

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