July 2, 2008

Old Internet Money Scams Don’t Die, They Just Get Rewritten

By Al Gibes

A variation of an old Internet scam hit my in-box recently, and it took a bit of searching to verify my hunch that the offer was bogus.

The message with the subject "Expecting Your Reply" came from Greg Mute, who claimed to be a member of the British Third Infantry Division, serving in Iraq. He jumped right to the point, saying he needed my help "cooperating in getting this money out."

* Red flag No. 1. What money? Details were curiously missing.

The message went on: "The money had been hidden behind the false wall of a house searched by our (US/UK) troops. I was among the soldiers that accompanied and counted the money and after the counting; I did not declare the total amount in my care to the authority."

* Red flag No. 2. The guy admits he's a crook.

The message continues: "You know the funds are legal and it is oil money. This amount is US$10million; it has been kept in one box and deposited with a security firm pending when I get a reliable person that could work with me to move it out to his/her country and put into a profitable investment so that by the time I am back from Iraq I will have something to fall back on since I cannot do it myself for security reasons."

The message says the funds are "mostly $100 dollar bill notes," and links to a BBC Web site with a story from April 2003 with the headline "Stash of money found in Baghdad." (http://tinyurl.com/ yvppuc) The story states that nearly $200 million was found in a Baghdad neighborhood, including $100 million in cash and 90 million euros in 31 containers.

So, infantryman Mute absconded with some of the loot and he wants to move it to me as soon as possible. And we'll split it 50-50.

* Red flag No. 3. Why me?

I searched several Web sites devoted to identifying online scams, and found no references to Greg Mute.

Could this be real? Not a chance.

A search for the phrase "stash of money found in Baghdad" on the scam site The Internet Patrol (www.theinternetpatrol.com) lead to an item with details similar to the message I received. It was from a different sender, with a photo of a soldier holding a bundle of what looks to be stock certificates. The message included a link to the same 2003 BBC story.

The scam is a redo of what's known as a "419 Scam," which offers incredible amounts of money, usually with a Nigerian connection.

Why 419?

The 419 Eater site (419eater.com) gives this definition: "(It is) known internationally as '4-1-9' fraud, after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes."

My advice should you get an e-mail from Greg Mute?

Hit the "delete" key.