Lame and lamer phishing scams

Online fraud artists ignore compelling details at their own peril

Listen up, aspiring Internet fraud artists: If you're going to perpetrate a scam, you've got to sell it!

This truism was brought home to me Wednesday when I received two bogus emails. Now, having been online professionally since way back when Yahoo was the darling of Silicon Valley, I just don't fall for phishing scams. Most of us don't.

But every other year or so you still read about someone hopping on a plane to Nigeria to hand over their life savings to a mysterious government official or representative of royalty. So naivete lives on.

Still, scammers, you've got to have some game. Who's going to be persuaded by this email I received shortly after noon?...

Re: Starbucks Coffee Giveaway

ATTN Facebookers, Starbucks Corporation is giving out holiday gift cards! Rush, Don't waste a minute. Here is webpage There only 52 left!

The sender is "Mohammad Al Zgoole," a not particularly believable name. Worse, the email recipient address listed isn't mine, or even close to it. Those are obvious red flags.

But red flags sometimes can be obscured with a little misdirection -- a sales job, lots of realistic-seeming details (for verisimilitude), etc. Mohammad doesn't even try, other than a feeble attempt to induce panic in email recipients that the coffee shop gift card that could be theirs will be gone forever if they don't act right now! Could the stakes be higher?

Now, I know there's a school of thought that poor spelling and other errors in a scam email can lull potential victims into a false sense of security. You know, "These people are so stupid, how could they possibly scam me?" But as a veteran scam target, I find sloppiness to be a turnoff. I only want to deal with competent scammers!

The other suspect email I received Wednesday was a much better effort, though still fatally flawed.

Rejected ACH transfer

The ACH transaction (ID: 2723917770989), recently initiated from your checking account (by you or any other person), was rejected by the other financial institution.

Canceled transfer

Transaction ID: 2723917770989

Reason of rejection See details in the report below

Transaction Report report_2723917770989.doc (Microsoft Word Document)


The NACHA Operating Rules provide the legal foundation for the exchange of ACH payments and ensure that the ACH Network remains efficient, reliable, and secure for the benefit of all participants. In its role as Network administrator, NACHA manages the rulemaking process and ensures that proposed ACH applications are consistent with the Guiding Principles of the ACH Network. The rulemaking process provides a disciplined, well-defined methodology to propose and develop and propose rules amendments to the NACHA voting membership, the decision makers for the NACHA Operating Rules.

Established in 1974, NACHA �The Electronic Payments Association was formed by the California ACH Association, the Georgia Association, the New England ACH Association, and the Upper Midwest ACH Association, to establish uniform operating rules for the exchange of Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments among ACH associations.

This scammer is doing much more right than Mohammad the Starbuck's clod. First, he's appealing to a much higher-level fear: Potential personal-finance problems.

Second, he's got great details: A long transaction ID, an attached Word document report, and an explanation of NACHA, including lots of mission boilerplate and an organization history. Very official!

What really makes it seem official, though, is the fact that there actually is a NACHA. Here's the association's website. And here's its warning about the NACHA email phishing scam.

But do a simple Google search on "NACHA" and most of the top returns are about this email scam, which apparently has been kicking around since at least last March.

Even without doing a Google check, though, my suspicion was aroused by the sender's email address -- Hardly a NACHA-approved email address!

Needless to say, I didn't visit Mohammad's tumblr page, nor did I open the Word attachment from "NACHA." The vast majority of people who receive these emails don't. But some do, and that's why we'll continue to see them.

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