Yesterday I did a bit of sifting through my junk mail folder. I rarely remember to do this but apparently – now and then – you should. I say this because last year I missed four incredibly important emails and each time it created quite an awkward work situation; in two of the cases the person involved thought I was ignoring them and in the others I completely missed out on some rather nice opportunities.
So now, every week or so, I skim through my junk email folder and check that there’s nothing interesting and/or urgent from legitimate senders who have somehow been blacklisted by my Mac Mail. It’s usually just a few dozen of messages from shoe companies, phone card top-up providers and cosmetics manufacturers in China who seem to think I’m a makeup brush retailer. Sometimes they are from scammers saying I’ve won money or I need to send money or I need to do something else that always – quite frankly – seems like a bit too much effort. Nevertheless, if I’m stuck for things to do (ie: I have loads of stuff to do but don’t want to do it) then I quite like to spend a few joyous minutes searching for threatening emails and then reading them out with comedy voices. These emails are never actually addressed to me – in the last week I’ve had emails sent to Tonya Recommends, Emily Farr and – amazingly – Peaches McTaff – but still. They’re in my box which means I own them. (On a sidenote, I’d love, more than anything, to meet someone called Peaches McTaff.)
Anyway, I got sent the below and it really tickled me. Especially the “I’ll call to police!” part. It made me go right back to the start of the email and re-read it all in the voice of Aleksandr Orlov from Compare the Meerkats.
I have to say that scamming emails, though obviously pretty dark in intent and potentially destructive in the wrong hands, are often very amusing. The malapropisms, the typos, the hilarious phrases that have simply become lost in translation; I worry about cyber crime a lot, but there’s nothing like a ridiculous email to lighten the mood.
This one, as you’ll find out, relies on the recipient being something of a racy internet user – watching saucy vids and, I assume, doing various things to themselves whilst they watch them. I can genuinely say that I have never watched sexy films on the internet, mainly because I’d rather spend hours on Rightmove looking at houses I can’t buy (floorplans are my porn, baby!); but if I did, then I’m not sure I’d do stuff to myself in front of the computer. What if I was accidentally connected to my mother via Skype? What if, somehow, I was uploading myself onto Facebook Live?
If there’s one thing you can take away from this post, it’s this: don’t do any naughty business in front of your computer without taping over your spyhole first. (“Taping over your spyhole” might sound like a euphemism: it’s not. I mean the camera hole in the top of the computer and if you didn’t know that was there, I suggest you spend an evening acquainting yourself with your machine. Again, not a euphemism.)
So here’s Aleksandr and his scam – I’ve made some notes in brackets as we go along.
“I’ll begin with the most important. [Please do.]
I hackled your device and then got access to all your accounts…
It is easy to check – I wrote you this email from your account. [He/she didn’t.] Also I have an old password for the hacking day: xxxxxx.
[OK let’s pause already: what is the hacking day? Is this another one of those “national days of” celebrations, like #nationaldoughnutday or #worldunicornday? Should we be celebrating hackers?]
Moreover, I know your intim secret, and I have proof of this.
You do not know me personally, and no one paid me to check you. [To be honest I’m quite disappointed that nobody paid to have me checked. Am I worth so little? I feel like a television baddy when they find out that the price on their head is only $2000.]
It is just a coincidence that I discovered your mistake.
In fact, I posted a malicious code (exploit) to an adult site, and you visited this site… [Nope, not me. Now Aleksandr, had you written to me and said “I posted a malicious code to a Velux blinds discount site, and you visited this site…” I would have been properly worried.]
While watching a video Trojan virus has been installed on your device through an exploit.
This darknet software working as RDP (remote-controlled desktop), which has a keylogger,
which gave me access to your microphone and webcam.
Soon after, my software received all your contacts from your messenger, social network and email. [I have no idea what most of this means but the Trojan, Darknet and Keylogger now residing in my device make me feel slightly uneasy. They sound tough and mean, like they might all carry those hammers with spikes sticking out of them. Is my laptop screen the portal to another – Lord of the Rings style – universe?
“Darknet? Darknet, you imbecile! Come closer and bring me the Orb of Clustertron.”
“Y-y-yes, Trojan sire. Here it is, the Orb, oh mighty one.”
“Darknet! Where is the Orbal Octicular Augmentor?”
“The…the what sire?”
“The Orbal Octicular Augmentor, fool! You know, the looking glass that makes viewing the Orb possible!”
“The…magnifying glass you mean? Keylogger has it, sire…”]
At that moment I spent much more time than I should have. [To be fair, Alek, I spend much more time than I should have doing a lot of things. Don’t beat yourself up about it.] I studied your love life and created a good video series. [Oh thank the lord – can I buy it off you please? Creating original Youtube content that people actually watch is killing me off. If you have video and I’m the star, I’ll pay good money.] The first part shows the video that you watched, [Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing Shallow, live. I know it must be that because I watch it multiple times a day.] and the second part shows the video clip taken from your webcam (you are doing inappropriate things). [This is probably true, to be fair.]
Honestly, I want to forget all the information about you and allow you to continue your daily life.
And I will give you two suitable options. Both are easy to do.
First option: you ignore this email.
The second option: you pay me $700(USD).
[Third option: you turn it into a blog post and make everyone read out my email in the voice of one of the meerkats from the Compare the Market.]
Let’s look at 2 options in detail. [OK.]
The first option is to ignore this email.
Let me tell you what happens if you choose this path.
I will send your video to your contacts, including family members, colleagues, etc.
This does not protect you from the humiliation that you and
your family need to know when friends and family members know about your unpleasant details. [Most confusing sentence structure I’ve ever seen – I can’t even unpick the meaning from this mess.]
The second option is to pay me. We will call this “privacy advice.” [Or extortion, but carry on.] Now let me tell you what happens if you choose this path. [Does it take me through Fall Forest, over Winter Mountain and out to Summer Lake like in Dora the Explorer?] Your secret is your secret. I immediately destroy the video. [Uh huh.] You continue your life as if none of this has happened.
Now you might think: “I’ll call to police!” [No, I don’t think anyone will actually think this because it’s not a sentence that exists. The grammar is completely incorrect. Still, this is my favourite line in the whole of your email. I like to imagine lots of people reading the same scam and then looking up from their screens and saying – “I know! I’ll call to police!”
“Pauline? Pauline! Come up here. I’ve got something shameful to tell you.”
“What is it Bob? Tell me you haven’t been vacuuming your penis up the hoover hose again?”
“Worse, Pauline. Much worse. And someone has filmed it, that’s the bad thing.”
“Oh Bob, when will you learn, love?”
“He’s threatening to take it public if I don’t pay seven hundred dollars.”
“What are you going to do, Bob?”
“I don’t know Pauline, I just don’t. If work see me using the office-issue hole punch to gently pincer my testicles whilst wearing a scuba diving mask I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“I wondered where the hole punch had gone Bob! I needed to file the electricity bill and I had to just rest it in the ring-binder, untethered!”
“Sorry Pauline, I really am. I just don’t know what to do. Any ideas?”
“Hmm. I know!”
“I’ll call to police!”]
Undoubtedly, I have taken steps to ensure that this letter cannot be traced to me,
and it will not remain aloof from the evidence of the destruction of your daily life.
I don’t want to steal all your savings. [This sentence is proof that Google Translate is never your friend] I just want to get compensation for my efforts that I put in to investigate you. [Flipping Poirot, here!] Let us hope that you decide to create all this in full and pay me a fee for confidentiality.
You make a Bitcoin payment (if you don’t know how to do it, just enter “how to buy bitcoins” in Google search)
Shipping amount: $700(USD).
Getting Bitcoin Addresses: xx
(This is sensitive, so copy and paste it carefully) [Oops. I replaced it with an XX. This is like when you opt to use the Safari strong password and then the computer forgets it and it was something like Sf%!!hjkh6789cdDcDD34?4 and you are locked out of Gmail forever.]
This is a one-time offer that is non-negotiable, so do not waste my and your time.
Time is running out.
I think that the sign-off might be my second most favourite part. So cheery! So familiar! I sort of wish that he/she had signed off with a name, no matter how fake.