A couple of days ago I received the following email:
Is this your professional or private email address ?
That was it. No salutation or signature. My mental alarms went off, but as there were no attachments or any dodgy bits (it got by my email’s spam filters) I wrote back asking why he wanted to know. Two days later, the following arrived. I’ll annotate it as it goes.
Thank you for responding back to my mail.
My name is Mr.Mulholland and I am a staff of NatWest Bank, here in England attached to Investment Banking Services, I am contacting you concerning a customer and an investment placed under our banks management; as a matter of fact it was roughly 11 years ago. I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail private and also to kindly respect the integrity of the information you come by as a result of this email. I contacted you independently and no one is informed of this communication; I would like to intimate you with certain facts that I believe would be of interest to you and benefit the both of us. All I want is an honest business transaction between us. First, I will start by introducing myself. My full name is John Paul Mulholland. I am a British citizen and I am currently working with NatWest Bank. I have been working here for 21 years now, and I have a good working record with my bank.
Right off the bat, fishy smells emanate from this message. Who writes “My name is Mr. Mulholland” only to give their full name further down the same paragraph? And as to his being “a staff on NatWest Bank” I am extremely doubtful.
He’s going to be so disappointed I did not keep this a secret.
NatWest is a real institution: the National Westminster Bank, a major bank in the UK.
I am also the personal accountant to late Engr.Paul Persing, a foreign contractor who has a financial portfolio of 8,782,500 (Eight million, seven hundred and eighty-two thousand, five hundred Great British Pounds.) with indefinite interest with my bank. My late client was a chemical consultant contractor with Royal Dutch until his death in a fatal car accident while in France on sabbatical with his entire family. The accident unfortunately took the lives of the family members comprising of himself, his wife and two kids in the summer of 2007 may their soul rest in perfect peace. He banked with us here at NatWest Bank and the money in his account has still not been claimed by anybody as there was no living will in place when he died.
The prose has improved in this paragraph, but the credibility is still doubtful.
“A foreign contractor” is a bit vague, considering the specificity of other elements of Mulholland’s story. Our family name is from the Alsatian German dialect, but this Paul Persing is working for an unnamed company (or self-employed) working with Royal Dutch, by which I assume he means Royal Dutch Shell, the British-Dutch petrochemical company.
As of April 16, 2019, 8,782,500 pounds is equal to 11,473,512.11 dollars.
Since the death of my client; my bank and I have made several inquiries to his embassy to locate any of his extended family members or relatives but this has proven unsuccessful. I came to know about you in my search for a person who shares the same last name as my late client. I employed the services of adobe search solely for this purpose as I feel it would not have been the last wishes of my late client for his whole life work to be transferred to a government (Escheat) he had always complained of their unfavorable public monetary policies, taxes and so on while he was alive. My bank has issued me several notices to provide the next of kin or the account risk been es cheat within the next 10 official working days. The last notice for claim came to my desk last week. I am contacting you to assist me in repatriating the funds left behind before they are declared un-serviced by my bank. I am seeking your consent to present you as the next of kin of my late client since you share and bear the same last name. As such, the proceeds of the account can be paid to you as soon as you contact my bank and apply for the funds to be released to you as the next of kin. If we can be of one accord, I see no reason why we would not succeed. We both have to act swiftly on this matter in other to beat the deadline es cheat date.
Escheat or es cheat? Why does that make me think of the Hall & Oates song, Adult Education? Anyway, the plot thickens in a familiar manner: ooh, a large sum of money going unclaimed, and maybe I could claim it? Let’s read on!
I am growing annoyed at this Mulholland for putting Hall & Oates in my head.
My proposal; I am prepared to place you in a position whereby an instruction is given to officially release the deposit to you as the closest surviving associate, and all etiquette shall be done in accordance with the rule of banking law, I certainly can guarantee you that, by the common law, the power of bequeathing is coeval with the first rudiments of the law, and this power has been extended to all. There is no ruling which prevents an inheritance from being so exhausted by legacies as to render it unworthy of the heir’s acceptance; basically all persons of sound mind are competent to bequeath and devise real and personal estate, excepting infants, with all this I would say we have the clear advantage to carry out a smooth and perfect operation whereby the paper work shall be coordinated in such a way that your status as a sole beneficiary is confirmed. Upon receipt of the deposit, I am prepared to share the money with you in half and no more; that is: I will simply nominate you as the next of kin and have them release the deposit to you; afterwards we share the proceeds in two equal parts.
Ah, so he wants an accomplice, but only a 50/50 split? I admit I received a few of the classic Nigerian Prince scam emails in years past, but I never read them past the first few paragraphs. But this fellow doesn’t seem to want any advance fee, which was typical of the Nigerian Prince con. Not sure about the legal terminology here, as I’m neither a lawyer or a banker.
I would have gone ahead to ask the funds be released to me, but that would have drawn a straight line to me and my involvement in claiming the deposit, but on the other hand, you as a foreigner would easily pass as the beneficiary with the rights to claim, I assure you that I could have the deposit released to you in a few days. I will simply inform our bank of the final closing of the file relating to the customer, and instruct them to release the deposit to you; with these two things: all is done. I guarantee you that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you and me from breaching UK laws. I will attach my international Passport ID in my next mail for authenticity so we have equal ground to trust each other. If you are interested in my proposal I will send you more information directing, you on further procedure on how we can claim the money in the account successfully. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to what the consequences might be, but I know within me that nothing ventured is nothing gained and that success and riches never come easy or on a platter of gold, this is the one truth I have learned from my private banking clients; do not betray my confidence. If we can be of one accord I shall have the pleasure of meeting you, after this task has been completed. The content of this mail should be treated with utmost confidentiality and a quick response from you will be highly appreciated. However, if you are not interested in this proposal, please accept my apologies for sending you the message and kindly delete message, I promised that you will never hear from me.
I anticipate your co-operation.
Thanks for your time and do have a great day.
Now, as an occasional writer of fiction, I understand the need for consistent world-building; that is, the story must hold up all the way through. Mr. Mulholland has assembled a story that, unless his legal/banking arguments are bogus, holds together reasonably well. He wants me to aid him in committing a crime, and has done a careful job of describing it. If by some chance he is with law enforcement and is trying to lure me into a crime, this email would be pretty good evidence of entrapment.
He fails immediately by stumbling over some basic bits of English writing. A banker who cannot decide on the right spelling of “escheat” is a curious fellow. His sentence “If you are interested in my proposal I will send you more information directing, you on further procedure on how we can claim the money in the account successfully,” aside from the misplaced comma, could be setting up a more traditional advance fee scam. And what is there to prevent me, if I were of a larcenous nature, from applying to NatWest as heir and cutting Mr. Mulholland out of the picture? Is he essential to releasing this money?
I guess I won’t tell him I have older siblings who would better qualify as next of kin to this (likely fictitious) Paul Persing. No need to get his hopes up.
Of course I’m not so big a fool as to go into this proposition. My interest is as a storyteller, and watching as a fellow fiction writer spins a tale. If it was worth my time, I might create a form rejection letter, as though each scam was a story submitted for publication. Come to think of it, I’m publishing this one, so I guess, in a small way, he wins.
He’ll get no response from me, and you can bet 8,782,500 Great British Pounds on that.