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Bill Tierney: Online fraudsters and Montreal’s cheaters aren’t that different

You have to wonder about fraudsters. For example, do cyber-fraudsters seriously expect results from Internet scams like the one I received a few days ago? I suppose they must catch some people or why would they continue sending emails offering millions of dollars in inheritances and packages containing thousands of dollars in return for my personal information?

You know the kind of email I’m referring to: Before you can get your hands on this multimillion-dollar inheritance, just send us your bank account numbers and passwords. Of course, we will. Right away.

I must confess to a little paranoia. The Internet brings out the worst in me. After all, it’s like magic, isn’t it? Like miracles every time you turn on the HD screen and feel like you’re back at Trudeau airport in the departure lounge about to go somewhere very exotic. But such obvious fraud is hard to figure out.

Is the distribution of these scamming (or is that just “spamming”?) emails random or am I in a target group? Do they already know something about me? Do I have a promising profile for this kind of thing? Am I on a list of people who are scammable? Ex-college teachers and West Island small-town mayors? It can’t be a large group: Anne Myles, Bob Benedetti …

I must get a handful of emails like this every month. And I presume that applies to everyone who’s hooked up to all the nutty Internet sites I’ve joined over the years. At least I hope you are getting as many come-ons as I am. Not to mention the thousands of cookies planted by online traders on all the computers I’ve owned or the weird spam I get from perfectly normal people. Why, for example, is my niece in England concerned about the size of my penis? Is she soliciting other male relatives to buy enlarging pharmaceuticals?

The email I’m going to share with you is not exceptional, far from it. The sender of this email is carlos@pucpcaldas.br, which is the address of someone called Carlos Miller who claims to be an “online co-ordinator.” With the swiftness of a West Island Sherlock Holmes I immediately notice that this address is in Brazil and I don’t know anyone in Brazil. And I certainly don’t know a Brazilian who works for an Austrian delivery company.

The email subject line wishes me “compliment of the season” and I wonder what happened to “compliments,” with an “S”? Are they in short supply with my Brazilian correspondent? Or is he just weak in English, like Pauline Marois?

He claims to be an online co-ordinator for “FedEx Express Courrier” (and that last word is asterisked with some little symbol that looks very official and convincing). “Vienna Austria”! There! That’s got my interest. The capital of the old Austro-Hungarian empire! I even happen to have a very good friend hoping to go to the opera in Vienna on her way back from Delhi and I once went to a West Island Austrian ball at which everyone waltzed rather beautifully. I am always intrigued by anything to do with the home of Sigmund Freud and the Waltz and Vienna Woods.

“Welcome,” my email reads, “to FedEx Express Courier® Vienna Austria, a parcel was brought to our office containing a Certified Bank Draft of {$400,000.00 United States Dollars}and some funds clearance documents suspected to be for you.” The punctuation is as I present it: freeflow.

I am then instructed to “contact the online co-ordinator (Carlos Miller)” with “correct details listed below for cross-checking and clarification.” The list of information required includes name, address, country, telephone, sex, marital status, age and occupation. Carlos signs off with his “regards” and provides his phone number, presumably to give me the opportunity to call him with the information if I don’t trust the Internet.

As we read the stories of the fraudsters giving testimony at the Charbonneau Commission, you have to wonder how they thought they’d get away with it, don’t you? And at how long it took for the city of Montreal to realize what was going on.

But then, what if there actually is $400,000 out there just waiting for me …

Bill Tierney is the former mayor of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.

billtierney@videotron.ca.

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