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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Dad's African Adventure

A week ago today I got an email from my stepdad that started out like this:

How are you doing today? I am sorry i didn't inform you about my traveling to Africa for a program called "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education"...

"Dad, you scamp!" I thought, "What are you up to now?" Dad is what is known in the vernacular as a card, and so I read along, figuring I'd come to a lame punchline at some point. I thought maybe he'd stumbled across some other fellow with his name who was the kind of do-gooding low-life who trots off to African conferences.

But no. No punchline of any degree of lameness. Instead it's a sad, long-winded (sounds like Dad there) tale of how he stupidly left his dough, credit cards, ID, etc in a taxi and now he's flat busted and is going to be kicked out of his hotel and he's using a library computer and only has thirty minutes and can he have $1300, pronto.

He must've already sold Mom, because there's no mention of her.

It wasn't signed, "Dad", you understand. It was signed with Dad's name.

So I googled up the Empowering Youth conference, and it turns out that it only exists in the fevered imaginations of spammers. This is apparently a scam that's been making the rounds for a couple months. I can't figure out whether Dad's account has been hacked, or whether it's a virus, or what.

Back in October, this made the Quad-City Times when a local naturalist was the purported sender. In that case, the reply-to email address was changed, which may mean his actual email account was not compromised, although his address book was. Just the other day, an African dance tutor from Leamington, in the UK, had begging letters sent in her name. Both of those wanted more money than "Dad".

And in November the scammer struck a bunch of activists who were protesting Irish PM Bertie Ahern's recent raise. In that case, the heart-rending plea for assistance was affectionately signed "FarTooMuch Bertie".

The originating IP on the one I got was, which is part of a dial-up pool in Lagos, Nigeria.

You have to wonder what kind of people have friends who don't know them well enough to tell them they're haring off to Nigeria, but do know them well enough to touch them for 1300 smackers. Friends who are too dumb to contact their credit card companies when the cards are lost, and yet clever enough to find hotels which don't demand that reservations be secured with said credit cards in advance.

And the scammers didn't put enough thought into their conference name, "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education". Shoulda been, "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education with a View to Providing Rainbows, Ice Cream, and Ponies to All." What kind of stone-hearted freak could turn down someone who'd go to that conference? Besides me, I mean.

Anyhow, I called Dad, who was very surprised to find that he was in Africa. I told him he might want to change his passwords. He called back today, saying he was embarrassed -- everyone in his address book had gotten one of those emails. I didn't get a chance to ask if anyone had been taken in by Dad the Do-gooder.