How to Identify Email Spam
I received the following email message recently. Actually, it went to my spam folder, but other recipients may not be so fortunate — or so discerning about its deceptive nature. But if you read carefully, you’ll find plenty of clues that the writer is not a native speaker of English, much less an FBI agent. My editorial interpolations are in brackets.
Anti-Terrorist and Monitory Crime Division.
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Daniel McMullen (Special Agent in Charge)
Attn: , [Mac, you forgot to fill in my name, or a generic term.]
This is to officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly investigated with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you are having an illegal Transaction with Impostors. [The Intelligence Monitoring Network System could be a brand-name system meriting initial capitalization, but it also could be — and is, according to an online search — a phrase that comes up only in reference to its inclusion in this message, a classic example of the Nigerian email scam. Furthermore, Rampant Initial Capitalization of Very Important Things, also seen in the phrase “Transaction with Impostors,” is a common occurrence in email-scam content.]
We the Federal Bureau Of Investigation want you to stop further communication with any Impostors claiming to be official. [The FBI would never use the royal we, it doesn’t capitalize the of in its name, and it wouldn’t simply tell you to “stop” anything.] During our Investigation, [not just any investigation, mind you, but an Investigation] we noticed that the reason why you have not received your payment is because you have not fulfilled your Financial Obligation given to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment. [More outbreaks of Raging Capitalitis. Also, even FBI bureaucrats know that “we noticed that the reason why you have not received your payment is because” is more elegantly rendered “we noticed that you have not received your payment because.”]
Therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry of Finance [of(?)] Nigeria on your behalf and they have brought a solution to your problem by coordinating your payment in total $5,900,000.00(Five Million Nine Hundred Thousand Dollars). [The only place you will find monetary amounts rendered to the last decimal place — followed by the spelled-out rendering, with words initial-capped, in parentheses — is in Nigerian scam emails. No one else treats references to money this way.]
Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation [Mac, can you just call it the FBI, like everyone else does? But thanks for lowercasing the of this time.] is involved in this transaction,you have to be rest assured for this is 100% risk free it is our duty to protect you. [The main clause of the previous sentence is a mess. Messages to the public from government agencies are better written than this.] We the Federal Bureau Of Investigation [there’s that royal we again, and a reversion to the initial-capped of] want you to contact the ATM CARD CENTER [All-caps = VERY IMPORTANT AND AUTHORITATIVE, but just what is the “ATM CARD CENTER”?] via email for their requirements to proceed and procure your Approval Slip on your behalf which will cost you $150 and note that your Approval Slip which contains details of the agent who will process your transaction. [This runaway sentence starts out coherently but eventually devolves into meaninglessness.]
NAME: Mr. Kelvin Williams
Address: 18 Koffi Crescent Apapa Lagos Nigeria [Is Nigeria, or the FBI — excuse me, the Federal Bureau Of Investigation — suffering a comma shortage?]
EMAIL: [email protected] [Why am I emailing someone in Nigeria? Oh, right — because it’s a Nigerian email scam.]
Do contact [“Do contact”? The FBI sure sounds fussy these days.] Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTER with your details,and you full information So your files would be updated after which he will send the payment information which you’ll use in making payment of$150 via Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram Transfer for the procurement of your Approval Slip after which the delivery of your ATM CARD will be effected to your designated home address without any further delay. [There’s evidently a period shortage, too.] We order you [You order me? Have I been conscripted? Oh, and, excuse me, sir, but you left out another word.] get back to this office after you have contacted the ATM SWIFT CARD CENTER [Oh, now it’s the ATM SWIFT CARD CENTER.] and we do await your response so we can move on with our Investigation and make sure your ATM SWIFT CARD gets to you. [What’s an ATM SWIFT CARD? Something available, evidently, only from Nigeria.]
Thanks and hope to read from you soon. [No, you will not be reading from me soon, Mac.]
Special Agent in Charge
FBI Los Angeles
Suite 1700, FOB
15000 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California
[Oops, you forgot your ZIP code, Mac. But that’s OK — I double-checked your street address, and it’s wrong. In an online search, it came up only in — wait for it — references to a Nigerian email scam. (This one, in particular.)]
Note: Do disregard [Fussy!] any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possession of your ATM CARD, you are hereby advice only to be in contact with Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTER who isthe rightful person to deal with in regards to your ATM CARD PAYMENT and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could act upon and commence investigation. [Again, the FBI does not condone run-on sentences — or comma splices.]
Note: There is actually a Federal Bureau Of Investigation agent named Daniel McMullen, but he’s stationed in Mississippi, not Los Angeles. Perhaps he was sent there as punishment for his atrocious writing skills. (That’s just a harmless little joke, denizens of the Magnolia State.)
Are you on the lookout for written passages to use as rewriting and editing exercises? Look no further than your email program’s spam folder.