Police rescue man and daughter kidnapped by email scammers

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Spam

KidnapMost of us have received a 419 email scam. You know the kind - they claim that you've inherited a fortune from someone you've never heard of who came to a sticky end, or that your number has come up in a lottery that you never bought a ticket for.

Sometimes they're funny in their general wackiness, but there is a serious threat - in so much as some people (maybe people not as cynical as you and me) believe the emails to be true, and end up out of pocket as a result.

Well, losing money from an email scam is one thing.. but what about losing your liberty?

News reaches us that South African police have rescued a South Korean man and his daughter, after they were lured to the country by a scam email telling them they had won a fortune in a lottery.

KidnappedAccording to The Guardian, the unnamed 65-year-old man arrived in Johannesburg with his daughter last week, believing he would be picking up his winnings from a multi-million dollar lottery.

The South African Police Service claim that the bad guys behind the email hired a driver to pick up the Korean pair from O.R Tambo International airport, only for the innocent pair and their taxi driver to be subsequently kidnapped and held at a house in Soweto.

A $10 million (£6.5 million) ransom was demanded from the 65-year-old man's wife, who was still in South Korea, although this was later negotiated down to to $120,000 (£78,000). You can just imagine how terrified they must have felt.

The driver subsequently managed to escape, and police officers rescued the captives before any ransom money could be deposited. Six suspected kidnappers, five of whom are of Nigerian origin, have been arrested.

According to police the South Korean nationals are traumatised by their four day ordeal:

"They declined to testify because they were traumatised," said Col McIntosh Polela of the South African police. "They were also embarrassed at being lured to South Africa. This is common once victims discover they've been fooled."

Please don't forget - although you may think it's crazy that anyone would ever fall for a 419 email scam, there are people who are vulnerable or elderly who might be tricked into believing that the offer is real - and end up losing a lot of money as a result. Or in this case, go through an intensely harrowing experience.

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16 Responses to Police rescue man and daughter kidnapped by email scammers

  1. Machin Shin · 827 days ago

    I got an e-mail before claiming to be a lady being held captive in Nigeria. I played along for a while and got a good chuckle out of it. (It was a throw away spam trap e-mail address I was using anyways) There were just so many things from one e-mail to the next that did not add up that I knew it was a scam.

    I guess this story shows though that some really will fall for such a scam and rush to collect their "winnings". These scams sadly don't seem to be leaving and if anything are getting more advanced. The thing that worries me is that with things like this getting into the news it makes people more likely to fall for the kind of scam I had sent to me.

  2. Back when Publishers Clearing House and American Family Publishers would do huge snail mail campaigns that would say stuff like "[Your Name Here] You've Won $10,000,000" (only to have small print above or below it stating that this is what they'll say if you have the winning number), they had a problem where people would show up at company HQ after a mass mailing, sometimes borrowing money to make the trip, because they thought they'd won the sweepstakes.

    If people can't tell that an ad for a sweepstakes isn't a notification they won, it's not hard to believe people will fall for attempts to intentionally deceive them.

  3. Derm · 827 days ago

    I love getting emails like these, I dragged these scammers along for a month asking them to send me details and more details, the IP address went back to a internet cafe in Lagos. In the end when I told them a helicopter piloted by my friends Stringfellow Hawke and Dominic Santini would be calling to bring them over to answer some questions the emails stopped :-(

    • Pete · 827 days ago

      Wow, I loved that show! Actually...I don't remember too much about the show itself...but I loved the helicopter! Too bad we can't actually get them to rid the world of some scammers.

      • Jon Fukumoto · 827 days ago

        The show he's referring to is Airwolf. I loved that show too, until the 4th season when they changed the entire cast, and it went downhill from there. Airwolf was actually a modified civilian helicopter, specifically a Bell 222B.

      • Jon Fukumoto · 827 days ago

        I wished we could rid the world of scammers. This is a very sophisticated form of social engineering. Everyone needs to be aware of such scams, and delete it immediately. Clicking on it will put you through a world of hurt, as described by the Korean father and daughter. I'm glad they got arrested, and they'll be spending some serious time in jail.

  4. Tyw7 · 827 days ago

    I once met an old lady who once belived she won millions in the UK national lottery and spent her money coming to the UK to claim the rewards.

  5. Jon Fukumoto · 827 days ago

    This is a prime example of social engineering. These scam are getting more sophisticated. Sadly, some people get duped and lose out. Remember, if you get these types of emails, DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY. That's very scary of what happened to those people, so be very careful. NEVER send money to someone you don't know, and NEVER respond to such scams.

  6. I think some people take for granted the fact that although many people are internet savvy, some people just have not been online enough to know how these scams play out, especially in some countries where they are not generally targeted for such scams on as widespread a basis. Was the guy naive, yes, but it's possible that his exposure to this type of scam was minimal so he had no reason to believe otherwise. I'm glad the kidnappers got caught, but I think more education needs to be put out there to the general public, and not through emails or webpages speaking of scams, but through other forms of media such as the newspaper and television, so that even non-internet users are captured as an audience and hopefully learn something from it. Just my 2 cents.

    Check out 419eater.com for people that scam bait for fun, it can get quite interesting.

    • Jon Fukumoto · 827 days ago

      Yes, I agree with you. This scam is a very sophisticated form of social engineering. Sad, but true. People get fooled all the time because it's so easy to do. I do agree that people need to be more educated and things like this should be printed in newspapers and in the media to make non tech savvy more informed.

  7. me · 827 days ago

    People are incredibly honest in some Asian countries. This makes them easy pickings for foreign scammers. ISPs need to do a better job of educating users about evil foreigners.

  8. NoSpin1600 · 824 days ago

    Information must be incorrect. Nigerians responsible for an email scam... can't be ;-)

  9. Well one thing is for sure if you know that you did not enter a competition and you won of have an uncle you do no know die and you reply to these emails then you are deep dowm croocked and greedy.

    Back in the nineties when spam first reared its ungly head of all those that I know that would have fallen for these scams all had short arms and deep pockets. All wanted that quick buck.

  10. amaze · 822 days ago

    Going to SA to collect a lottery prize... what was he thinking.

  11. horrible · 812 days ago

    Horrible!!! You'd think by now the entire planet would know about this scam. It's only been around the last 15-20 years!!! I mean really, as bad as this is you have to wonder how much did greed play in this? I know someone who was scammed by this back in the early 90s!

  12. "gunner" · 807 days ago

    i'm not all that "computer savvy", just an old coot with a computer, but i long ago figured out that nobody was going to shovel great heaping piles of money at a perfect stranger. i have no missing relatives in far away places with strange sounding names, i also have no interest in financing ladies named tasha, marya, oxana, etc. who hope to come to my country, and my wife frowns on me keeping pets with bigger boobs than hers, so all those e-mails go straight to the trash file and deletion. besides, i know what 15 megabucks in cold hard cash looks like at first hand, so big numbers don't impress me.

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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.