Here's a facebook note I wrote up after a scammer hacked my friend's e-mail account:
"I received this e-mail today from Amy:
Am sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it is because of the situation of things right now, I am stuck in Wales,United Kingdom right now, i came down here on a vacation, i got robbed, everything was going fine until last night when i got mugged on my way back to the hotel,all cash,phones and credit card were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passports with me, i have been to the Embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all they asked me to wait for 3weeks but i can't wait till then and my flight leaves in few hours from now but i am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the hotel bills please i need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as i am back home.
Now, I knew she wasn't in friggin' Wales but I e-mailed her husband just in case. Nope, not in Wales.
Most people would have left it alone at that point, but...I'm a jerk. So I wrote back.
"Honey of course I'll help! Let me know what you need. If you give me the hotel's number I'll call and get the room taken care of.
It's like a scammer's mating call. "I have money! And I am willing to part with it!"
I was intrigued. I had just offered money paid directly to the hotel - which was the problem the scammer claimed to have. How would they sidestep that offer so they could get cash?
The next e-mail came within seconds:
"I am glad to hear from you, i am in a tight situation over here i just really need your financial assistants with getting on a plane back home, $1,650 is all i need more,you can get the money to me here using a western union, you need just my name as written on my passport and the location here, i can get on a plane in the next 3hrs if i can get the money, Its not just safe here, i am really freaking out.
Here's the details :
Location: 164 Malpas Road NP20 5PP Newport , United Kingdom
Amount: $1,650 Dollar
Kindly reply me with the confirmation number as soon as you are done with the transfer. Thanks alot, i am really glad you can help and will surely get the money back to you as soon as i get back home.
Yes. You are horribly unsafe in the untamed wilds of WALES. Girl, we live in New Orleans. Sometimes Haiti is safer. (well...Amy defected to Jefferson Parish, but still). I'm not impressed.
Professor Google tells me you want me to wire money to a hotel while there is a bank with Western Union capability not far away. Lets use this information.
I posted to Amy's husband's FB asking for fake Western Union numbers and he came up with pi. I thought that was brilliant, so I sent this back:
"Sure, go to the Lloyds at: 42 Commercial Street in Newport . The Western Union number is 314159265.
Are you flying out of Cardiff ?"
I don't give a crap where the scammer pretends to fly out of, but I did want to see what interesting lie they could concoct about the "flight in a few hours" when they were in a city with no airport. Sadly, they sidestepped the question.
The reply came back:
"Thanks, do reconfirm the mtcn number, it is nine digit instead of ten.
I was thinking that pi would be a dead giveaway, but apparently not. You'd think an even BIGGER giveaway would be that I had no idea how many numbers were in a Western Union MTCN. I was wondering if they were trying to trick me up, but again Professor Google confirmed there were 10 numbers in a Western Union MTCN (which I learned stands for Money Transfer Control Number). So I looked up the 10th digit of pi and sent the following:
"Whoops! Sorry, when I typed it in I left off the 3. The MTCN is 3141592653."
At that point I had to go to lunch. I sent the above at 9:04. At 11:39 they sent:
"ii was unable to confirm the money from the western union outlet, can you send me the payment scanned receipt.
They then sent the exact same e-mail at 12:02. Since they had been responding pretty quickly before then and there was a two and a half hour gap I am PRAYING that they actually went to the dang bank to try to pick up the money. Amy's gotten in touch with g-mail now so they probably wouldn't get any responses, but I hope I made some jerk's day a little darker."