July 07, 2005

Illiterate lottery swindle spam

A staggeringly incompetent fake lottery-winnings spam email just arrived from WINNERSLOTTO@terra.es (with the Content-Language field showing "es", meaning Spanish, incidentally, a rather implausible setting for a supposedly official announcement from a British national lottery agency). Notice that not even the Subject field is free of linguistic mistakes   they only managed to type the first 8 characters correctly):

Subject: Congratualtion/Award anotification

Support Centre
Bevan House
51 Bevan Avenue
Conwy LL28 5AF
United Kingdom


REF: UNL/26510460037/02
BATCH: 24/00319/IPD

We are pleased to inform you of the announcement
today, 5th July 2005, of winners of the UK NATIONAL
held on 30th July  2005 in Croydon,London.

You email address was attached to ticket number
023-0148-790-459, with serial number 5073-11 drew
the lucky numbers 43-11-44-37-10-43, and consequently
won you the lottery in the 1st category.
You have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay
of £100,000,000 british pounds in cash credited to file REF NO.
UNL/26510460037/02 . This is from total prize money of £500,00,000.00
(GBP) shared among the ten international winners in this category.

All participants were selected randomly from World Wide Website through
computer draw system and extracted from over 100,000 companies from
NorthAmerica,Africa and Asia as part of International Promotions
Program, which is conducted annually. Please note that your lucky
winning number falls within our European booklet representative office
in Europe as indicated in your play coupon. In view of this, your
£100,000,000 british pounds would be released to you by our preferred
payment center in London.

Our agent will immediately commence the process to facilitate the
release of your funds as soon as you contact him.For security reasons,
you are advised to keep your winning information confidential till your
claims is processed and your money remitted to you in whatever manner
you deem fit to claim your prize. This is part of our precautionary
measure to avoid double claiming a nd unwarranted abuse of this program
by some unscrupulous elements.Please be warned.

This is part of our security protocol to avoid
double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants
of this program.
To file for your claim, please contact our fiduciary

Claim agent/Payment coordinator
EMAIL : sir_alancbrown@myway.com or alancbrown1@yahoo.co.uk

For due processing and remittance of your prize
money,please remember to quote your
reference and batch numbers in every one of your
correspondences with your agent.

Furthermore, should there be any
change of your address, do inform your claims agent
as soon as possible.
Congratulations again from all our staff and thank
you for being part of our promotional lottery program.

Jox White Smith
Zonal Co-ordinator

From the Subject line on, it just gets worse. It is hard to count the errors. The word "winners" is misspelled; the second paragraph begins ungrammatically ("You email address" should begin with "Your") and gets worse (there seem to be two main verbs fighting each other like two weasels in a sack); the supposed total amount of money in the lottery ("£500,00,000.00") is not a well-formed number expression; "british" should have been capitalized; "Austraaalia" should have not quite so many a's in it (three or four is ample); numerous spaces are skipped after punctuation marks...

The sheer pig ignorance of criminals today boggles the mind. Whatever happened to the literate masterminds and gentleman jewel thieves of yesterday? Where are the brilliant confidence tricksters going to extraordinarily lengths to set up an elaborate scenario for a perfect sting? What I keep reading in the news is stories about totally dumb criminals, like the bank robber who wrote his gimme-the-money note on the back of an envelope correctly addressed to him and let the teller keep the note. The senders of the above spam are of similar intellectual caliber. Crime is apparently being taken over by complete idiots. Learn your grammar, Jox, or not many people are going to fall for the part of the caper where they hand over their bank account details. (By the way, is a British lottery administrator really likely to be called "Jox"?)

Added later: People keep mailing me to tell me smugly that I'm wrong, I didn't realize that spams contain deliberate misspellings in order to fool spam filters. But that's not it. Can anyone really believe that the people whose work is reproduced above spelled giveaway phrases like "promotional lottery" and "been approved" and "security reasons" without changes, but added extra letters to "Australia", removed the space from "New Zealand" and "North America", decapitalized "British", and wrote ungrammatical phrases like "your claims is processed", and "a lump sum pay" to try and avoid spamassassin? Nonsense. I have a better theory, one that works. The spammers were drooling idiots who slept through their English classes and are now not qualified even for crime. Old-timers will recall that I have previously written on Language Log about other evidence for the existence of spammers who can't write well enough to spam: here and here and here.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at July 7, 2005 06:34 PM