Recently, a MainStreet editor received one of those email scams from a desperate finance guy looking for help transferring millions of dollars to an overseas account.

It came from a potentially generous alleged foreigner we call Mr. S. J. We’ve decided that in the interest of financial journalism (and a bit of fun) we would respond to our would-be benefactor, using the pseudonym “MainStreet Mark.” It is our hope that these emails will better inform the public as to how these scams generally proceed, though we advise anyone receiving one of these emails to dump it immediately, and under no circumstances should you engage the sender in any type of communication. Got it? No circumstances.

Click here to see past correspondence with Mr. S. J.

In our last email, we tried to put Mr. S.J.’s mind at ease, assuring him that we did not think he was a scammer, and then we asked about his plan. Well, it seems to have worked. He sent us a 1,400 word tome (which you can read in its entirety) explaining the financial situation at hand. Here are some highlights, along with our comments in bold:

• “ I contacted you concerning a deceased customer A.M.N. (An Iraqi Crude oil merchant), and an investment he placed under our banks management.” Whoa. A dead Iraqi crude oil merchant. We bet he was rich.

• “I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail confidential and respect the integrity of the information you come by as a result of this mail.” Sorry, dude. We’re not publishing your alleged name though, which we hope you appreciate.

• “In June 2001, A.M.N. …informed us that he had a financial portfolio of 18.3 million United States dollars, which he wished to have us turn over (invest) on his behalf.. I was the officer assigned to his case because of his high net worth profile… the accrued profit and interest stood at this point at 22.5 million United States dollars.” You must be a fantastic banker.

•  “Upon maturity several notice was sent to him, even during the war (U.S and Iraqi war)… no response came from him.” Mysterious.

• “Information started to trickle in that A.M.N. and his family had been killed during the war in a bomb blast that hit his home at Mukaradeeb where his personal oil well was.” How can we get a personal oil well? We want to bathe in crude. Oh, and that’s sad about A.M.N. and his family. Seriously, if that part is true (and so far we haven’t been able to confirm that there is an A.M.N.), blown up families are really sad.

• “In his bio-data form, he listed no next of kin.” OMG. We think we may have lost our bio-data form. Who will inherit our personal oil well should we get blown up?

• “According to the laws of my country at the expiration of six {6} years the funds will revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. This will not happen if I have my way.” When this is all over we bet he says, “I would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddlin’ kids.”

• “What I wish to relate to you will smack off unethical practice… There is US$22,500,000.00 deposit just lying unclaimed… I am prepared to furnish the necessary details to you as the closest surviving relation.” So he’s going to give us information that will enable us to pose as the dead Iraqi oil man’s next of kin.

• “I am also proposing…the funds be disbursed in the ratio 30/70; 30% of the funds will go to you for offering yourself as the next of kin and providing a foreign account… and 70% will be for me. Please let me know …if the above sharing ratio is okay by you because we can fine-tune… incase you have any problem with it.” That’s nice of you to offer but 30% of $22.5 million would be just fine.

• “If you give me positive signals, I will give you the relevant modus operandi to initiate this process towards a conclusion.” What kind of positive signals did you have in mind? Anyway, looks like we’ve got some choices to make.

What he’s suggesting seems a little sketchy, maybe even illegal! There is, however, more than 6 million bucks on the line. We should probably proceed cautiously, express concern, tentative willingness, and more information. Here’s our response

from MainStreet Mark <*********>
to *********
date Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 5:15 PM
subject Re: Details

Mr. S. J.:

Wow. That is some story. Thank you for sharing. I should first admit that I'm still not sure that I understand it completely, but let me just repeat back to you some of what you've told me: You have access to this poor Iraqi man's millions and you need a partner outside of Hong Kong to act as a relative to this man, so you can deposit the money into that account, and then we'd split the money... is that right? Do you work for the Hang Seng bank? I didn't understand that part.

It seems like an interesting idea to say the least. First of all, I am not an Iraqi, I don't look Iraqi, and if I walked into a bank, even if I had the right paperwork, I am not sure that I'd pass as an Iraqi. Would that be a problem? Beyond that, if I did help you, could I get into trouble? I live a pretty happy life, I'm financially secure with a healthy bank account. My wife and I travel (we're even talking about visiting Hong Kong). I wouldn't want to do anything that would get me into trouble. I wouldn't want to risk losing any of my money in the long run. So before I even consider helping you, I'd need your assurances that this would be safe for me and my family. Do you think we should partner?

“Mainstreet Mark”


Let’s see what our friend comes back with.