Unless you’ve never given your email address out to a living soul (I’m starting to think this is a good idea), you’ve probably received some spam emails of some kind, representing some scam or another. Maybe you’ve almost fallen for one or two of them. When I read that a musician friend of mine had been robbed while going to London on short notice for a seminar, I was almost going to send money, before I remembered that this friend wouldn’t attend a seminar if it was in his own bedroom, and I realized his email had been hacked.
Then of course we’ve all received the rampant urban legends, usually forwarded by gullible friends of ours. They cover a variety of topics, from congress passing laws banning Christianity and the internal combustion engine, to your cell phone provider making your phone number public. If you’re an internet veteran, you may recall a personal favorite of mine, an oldie but goody: the gang of thieves who were breaking into hotel rooms in the middle of the night and stealing people’s kidneys, leaving you in a tub full of ice with a neat incision in your back. I was so worried about this, I took the precaution of removing one of my own kidneys and placing it in a bowl by my hotel bed with a note to just take the thing and let me sleep.
My all-time favorite email scam genre, though, has to be the African bank scam. You know the one, written in broken, bizarre English, purporting to be from a bank employee with a bank in Nigeria or somewhere who wants you to take possession of 10 million dollars of unclaimed money, for which you would naturally have to give out your own banking information to make a transfer. There’s also the variation that comes from some sort of African royalty from an unstable nation, wanting you to take some of their kingdom’s fortune before it falls into the hands of rebel warriors. I like getting these just for the writing style, plus I love the idea that somewhere, someone actually believes that they were personally chosen to be trusted with such a fortune. Somewhere, someone does, or they would never send these out.
My amusement turned to anger, though, when I received the following email, and I realized that these scammers are now targeting bluegrass music fans and musicians specifically. Now they’ve gone too far. Read on, but please don’t send this guy any money:
Dear Trusted Friend,
It is with great importance that I am impelled to contact you regarding
an urgent financial transaction that I am pleased to hope will be of
mutual beneficience to you and your family. Allow me the privilege of
making introduction to myself: I am Assam Beluga, Crown Prince of the
former African kingdom of Zamfir. You may know it now as Zimbabwe
(formerly Amalkar, formerly Rhodesia, and before that, Amarillo). My
father, the King of Zamfir was assassinated by rebels recently and they
are now attempting to confiscate all of his belongings.
The reason that you were respectively chosen to making contact is that
my father was a great lover of American music, He possessed some
antique musical instruments that I have greatest concern for: one is a
mandolin built by the Gibson company in the 1920s. It has a curly knob
on it and contains a signature by a Mister Lloyd Loar. He also owns a C.F.
Martin and Co. guitar, model D-28, that was made before the second
world war. These instruments were of greatest meaning to my father, and
I am worried that if they fall into the hands of the rebels, they will
simply use them for firewood, or dismantle them and fashion them into
crude weapons. It is my sincerest desire that you will take possession
of these treasures for me, as I cannot safely keep them in my own
country. I am told they are very valuable, but I would give them to you
for free, with a small charge of $2,000 U.S. dollars for
contingencies. After a simple bank transfer, I will ship them to your
address. You could come to my country to pick them up yourself, but I
am concerned armed rebels may kidnap you, hit you and kill you before
you could take possession of these instruments. It will sadden me to
give these up, but it is the best way I know to preserve them, and I
will forever cherish the memory of my father holding his mandolin, playing
a painfully slow version of Blue Grass Stomp. I’m sure this is what he would
wish me to do.
Please contact me at your soonest moment of possibility, so that I may
make this shipment to you as soon as I can do so. It is not wise to
reply to this address, rather you may reach me at
Crownprinceman@itweb.zb. I am currently in hiding, in the care of my Uncle Guluzima (my father used to call him “Uncle Pen”. I have no idea why.)
May God richly bless you with good fortunes and many happiest
Assam Beluga III
Crown Prince of Zamfir
So there it is. Will these teenage hackers stop at nothing? I don’t know about you, but I’d almost pay $2000 just to hear that version of Blue Grass Stomp.