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Dealing with Email Frauds: Greetings from Kuala Lumpur!


The caller was so excited about the email: somebody in Kuala Lumpur had died with the same last name as hers! Who left a $10 million estate! And the email’s gracious writer was happy to help my caller in finding out what part of the $10 million would be her inheritance.

She asked my advice on how to handle this, and was crushed by my answer: “Just delete it.” She didn’t email much, and I told her this was just the first of many inheritances, lost accounts in foreign countries, et al. that she’ll hear about.

And then I thought she might be helped by a composite of the email cons which lay ahead.  And so . . .

“Dear Reader,

“Please excuse this letter but I live in the Uzbekistan province of southwest Asia in former Soviet Union.  So I don’t write the English too well. I’m connecting with you in respect to confirm if you are eligible enough to go into business with me as I’m in need of a partner who is an attorney. Or perhaps an attorney who is a partner. Or perhaps a representative who didn’t go to law school but is fluent in tongues. Whatever, as you say in your United States.

“The situation is thusly. My family moved here from the Winter Palace in Tajikistan. Before we left, my great-grandmother had secreted jewels, currency, a fabulous wardrobe used by the cast in the movie Dr. Zhivago, wooden nesting dolls of all the Czars, and an entire bobblehead collection of the 1996 Atlanta Braves.

“That is the background.

“My problem started when I decided to learn to write the English better and signed up for an Internet course.  The teacher was located in your part of the world, I think he lived in a city called Free Home, GA. Such an ironic name.  My lessons in the English were not free and after sending him a $100,000 money order for my tuition, my teacher was never home.

“Eventually a relative of his wrote me that my teacher had taken ill with a rare disease that had a secret cure known only to the top hospitals and doctors in countries outside the U.S.  But insurance wouldn’t cover the cure, and so this relative (Uncle Something-Or-Other) hoped we wouldn’t mind but he arranged for a loan with our precious heirlooms as security so he could pay the medical bills.

“Somehow he arranged for a intermediary from Xenophobia to dig up the family jewels, the Zhivago wardrobe and the nesting dolls and send it all to a collection agency the hospital used.  The agency was also located in Free Home. How ironic, again, this place’s name. Tell me, do they really give away homes there?

“When I investigated, they told me “Pick out a house out, and then go sit at a meeting for closure.” Something is definitely wrong here.

“In the meantime, the teacher went out of the country, the operation was successful and he is recuperating on a desolate, sun-soaked beach somewhere in the Caribbean.

“Meantime, his cousin said the hospital will release our family possessions but needed some good faith security that they are shipping the jewelry, the movie costumes, the stacking dolls and the bobbleheads to the right address.

“He is willing to take responsibility, this cousin. But he needs to open an escrow account with the U.S. Customs which can’t be done without a $10,000 deposit.  Which, of course, he doesn’t have. Nor do I.

So I write you, my esteemed correspondent, to see if you could put up the deposit and wire the money to this address I will give you. In exchange, you can have half of the jewelry, all of the costumes, all of the stacking dolls, and the bobbleheads of Chipper Jones and Jeff Blauser.

“Please let me know at your earliest convenience if you would do this for us, and I will forward you the name and account information.

“With blessings upon you for many happy returns, I am your humble servant,”

[I’ve omitted the name – in case you are tempted.]



  1. Joe Balaban says:

    Fun reading and I’m sure informative for some of your clients. We need to be even more aware today. I recently received a similar letter that appeared to come from a friend requesting financial help as she was robbed while on vacation in London. I knew it was fraud as my friend a dentist whose husband is President of a University would not have sent this. Her e-mail was phished (address book hacked). One thing that made this particularly unique is that she is from Liberia and her husband is President of the University of Liberia where so many e-mail frauds originate.
    Happy new year, Joe Balaba

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