Scammers cash in on Chinese earthquake disaster

Filed Under: Spam

Last week's earthquake in South West China  has resulted in an official death toll of over 40,000, with many other people still missing. The scale of the tragedy and its huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people is impossible to comprehend.

Sadly, internet scammers and cybercriminals stalk death closely and seem to have no compassion as they quickly try to take advantage of a huge disaster.  In the past we have seen hackers, phishers and 419 scammers exploit tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech massacre, the West Virginia mining disaster, and terrorist bombings in London, to name but a few.

Yesterday, the FBI issued a timely warning about email scams pretending to come from victims of the Chinese earthquake.

Predictably enough, criminals have once again been quick to exploit other people's misery.  Here is the text of a typical Chinese earthquake scam seen intercepted in our spamtraps:

Dear friend,I do not know your exact name. I can only guess.I ask you to read through my letter up to the end. After that you will be in the right to send my letter in a garbage basket or.......

My letter is caused by despair. I do not know to whom to address. I am compelled to ask for help any person. Mainly you. I hope that mine letter has got to the person which has sympathy and compassion. I wish to trust in it.

My name is Arnulfo. My situation enters me into depression and despair.

I will tell you shortly. I don't even know how to express correctly my ideas. How to write you about this. I can tell with confidence that my hands shiver when I press on the buttons of the keyboard. Several days ago I could not think that I shall address to the stranger with such situation. Probably it's stupid or incorrectly. But it is the only thing that is left to do. I just ask to understand me. I even should tell that it's a shame to do it.

I shall continue. I do not know where you are. And I don't know what news you saw on TV or listened by Radio. I think that you could hear about Earthquake in China. My God, it's awful...

Me and my wife have flied to the country of Philippines two weeks ago. We wanted to search for a new place in this world, where we could create our new world. There where we could live and create good family. We have got married a year ago. The matter is that my wife is a chinese woman, and I was born on Philippines, but has grown in Spain. My father is Spaniard, and my mum is Philippine. My parents have died several years ago. I have left to study in the university to another country. I studied Chinese language and culture. There I also have got acquainted with Jin It is my wife. We have got married. And yes, we were happy. I will tell - We are happy together. But parents of Jin were against our marriage. And we have decided to search a place which will make us happy. We thought of Philippines.All. Everything was good. Yes, all was simply magnificent. Until the first impact has happened. We have heardabout it in the news. I do not wish to describe that happened with Jin when she has heard about that her native city was completely destroyed. Her native city has been destroyed. Me and Jin were in panic. We have decided at once to come back to China to my wife's parents. Jin was in despair.

But the destiny has made a new turn. We had no money for air flight to China for two. We had money. We have made money transfer to the bank account in Philippines for purchase of a small house. But I can receive this money only on the 1st of June. Not earlier. Bank bureaucracy exists all over the world. We did not know what to do. Then we have found only one exit. We have received all money which were on our ATM-cart. Me collected the sum of money for air flight only for my wife. It was a hard moment in our life. But then I did not know that the worst will be ahead. We have solved that my wife will go to China alone. It was a difficult decisions for me. But I couldn't stop Jin. And I could not fly together with her. Jin has quickly gathered and has departed. When she left tears flew on our cheeks . I don't know how to explain that I felt during this moment. But I understood that my wife felt. Mine Jin. Her parents were in trouble. I have remained alone not having money. My hotel accommodation has been paid for some days.

Two days have passed. Jin has called in my room in the hotel. She has told me that her parents and sisters are alive. But her two sisters have hard wounds. They were in other building when Earthquake has begun . It was awful. Also Jin has told that her city has great destructions, but their house hasn't suffered too much. Many people have no houses and spend nights in the street. There is a Chaos everywhere. Family of my wife have dicided to remain at home. They did not think that Earthquake will repeat again.

[snip a few paragraphs!]

I have put in pawn the mobile phone. I have little money for Internet. I write a letter to you from internet-cafe. From the common e-mail.

Also some kind people who know about my situation have helped me. I shall have the small sum of money. But a greater sum of money is required . I am lack of 1000$. I have no opportunity to find such sum of money. I tried all opportunities to find the money. I don't wish to think that money solve all in this world. I believe that the main thing is people and love. And I wish to believe that I will be able to be beside my Jin soon . We are sure shall be happy together.

Only despair has compelled me to write you this letter. Probably it sounds silly. You have a right to think about me all that you want. I will understand you.I I address to you for a help. Your help is required to me. I shall tell directly that I ask you to help me with money. I will return you money later, right after as soon as I receive my money which are in the bank. I can return to you money on the first of June. I will see the wife. I shall be with her. I can take care of her. After that I will return on Philippines to take back money. And I will return to you even more Money. I only ask to help me now.I have been explained that I will be able to receive money in Western Union. And I will return the money to you in the same way. I am ready to return you more.

I will hope that my letter will not offend you because we are unfamiliar. I do not even know your name. I have taken yours e-mail from Internet. And I have hope that e-mail to which I write is of a good person.

I will understand you in any case. Iask to excuse me . I only want you to understood me. Only despair and love have forced me to write this letter to you. I want  to use all variants To be near to my love.

And still, if you will be able to help me I shall consider you to be the best man in this world. You will save a life of mine Jin. I shall write the data on which I will be able to receive cashes in Philippines through Western Union.

I do not know what to tell you more . I believe in love and destiny. I ask you to answer me to this e-mail:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com.ph

I have registered it right now. I will wait fo your answer to this e-mail. If you want to answer me

Yours faithfully Arnulfo

Our advice, as always, is to ignore scams like this and not respond.  If you do want to support the relief and recovery operations in China then it's much better to donate to a legitimate aid agency such as The Red Cross.

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.