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Persistent scammers just don't give up

AAP logoAAP 21/09/2016 Max Blenkin

"Someone paid me to kill you ... get spared."

It's an email header that demands immediate attention.

"48 hours to pay $5000. If you inform the police or anybody ... death is promised. Email me now."

Given that it lobbed into this reporter's spam folder more than a week ago and originated in the Netherlands, obviously it's an empty threat.

Like every other scammer, this one is working on the principle that if you send out enough emails, someone will bite.

It seems hard to believe that anyone on the planet could possibly fall for the standard Nigerian scam.

But still the emails keep arriving, many seeking to create credibility with a story based on current world events. Here's one:

"I am. Mr. Christian Joseph and I am a US soldier attached to UN peacekeeping force in Syria. I am the commanding officer of the First Battalion of the Royal US Regiment," he says.

Joseph, who communicates by way of a Gmail account, has acquired US$75 million "belonging to some demised persons" and I get 25 per cent for helping him get it out of Syria.

How about Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) Lieutenant Sergey Kuralenko who wants me to help invest $20 million he nicked from an Islamic State hideout in Syria - my cut $6 million.

What chance is there that this money actually exists? The answer is none whatsoever.

This applies equally to little old ladies dying of cancer who would like their deceased husband's great fortune to be used for some worthy purpose, and orphans from wars in Iraq and Syria who need some help investing their inheritance in my country.

This is the standard advance fee scam which existed well before the internet and which, according to Wikipedia, dates back to the 1830s.

In order for the promised funds to be released, there will initially be some modest legal and administrative costs. For the truly conned, that can eventually amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These are often referred to as Nigerian scams, as many apparently originate in the African nation, though through use of webmail services and spoofing of email addresses they could come from anywhere.

One recent email purports to come from Nigeria's debt reconciliation committee as well as the World Bank, United Nations and International Monetary Fund promising compensation of US$800,000 for being scammed. Similar proposals have come from the UN, FBI and even first lady Michelle Obama.

Only the truly greedy or gullible could fall for this one, though the fact that these scams continue suggests that it still remains worthwhile for scammers to send out vast numbers of spam emails in the hope of one or two bites.

Australians appear just as likely to bite as anyone else, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Scamwatch website reporting Nigerian scam losses of $4.55 million in 2015 and $1.4 million so far this year.

Half the scam offers arrived by email and 21 per cent by phone.

Scamwatch - online at www.scamwatch.gov.au - has some simple advice. If it sounds too good to be true it surely is.

Don't respond, certainly don't send money or personal details and if in doubt, seek advice from someone you trust.

For the scammers, dating and romance scams, still remain remain the most lucrative, with 2773 reports and $15.67 million losses this year alone.

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