Last updateFri, 13 Nov 2015 5pm

‘Dearest ... may I give you 20 million dollars?’ Email scams for newbies

If you don’t immediately clutch your purse or iPad when someone asks you for directions in a supermarket parking lot, it means you didn´t read “The Picking of Pepe’s Pocket,” published in this paper two months ago. That column dealt with shopping center scams popular in Guadalajara, but this time the focus is on e-mails. If you’re not too familiar with the subject, read on.

Thanks to the influence of my Mexican in-laws, I was able to open an e-mail account at a local university ´way back in the 1980’s. Checking my messages meant driving 20 kilometers into town, but I did it regularly. The earliest form of spam I recall seeing was akin to the chain letters that used to circulate in the days when mail came inside paper envelopes: “Send this message on to ten friends and good luck will come your way (and if you don´t, woe betide you).”

Now, when it came came to scams in those early days, they were more like pranks. For example, there was the classic Bill Gates Giveaway. I still remember how my eyes lit up the first time I read it!

“Bill Gates is sharing his fortune ... For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00. For every person that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00. I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this message and forwarding it on. Microsoft contacted me for my address and within days, I receive a check for $24,800.00.”

By the way, the prevalence of typos and grammar mistakes in this last quote are typical of most Internet hoaxes.

That email, believe it or not, is still circulating today. Another one that just won’t die is the 1989 request to send a greeting card (in some versions, a business card) to a British boy named Craig Shergold who was dying of cancer and wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for having received the most greeting cards. Well, there really was such a boy and by 1990, 16 million cards had reached him, making Craig’s wish come true.

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