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Anatomy of a 419 scam

One victim's first-hand account of advance fee fraud

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Exclusive Regular readers will be familiar with our ongoing coverage of variations on the 419 advance fee fraud scam. Occasionally, we report on people who have been suckered by the promise of riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice - and duly fleeced for their trouble.

Two oft-posed question from readers are "how could they be so stupid?", and "surely everyone is aware of these scams by now?" Indeed, we have been accused in the past of carrying too much 419 coverage.

Sadly, though, it's clear that the 419ers continue to operate with considerable success. The following is an account of how one US citizen (we have called him DG) recently lost $1,000 to a UK-based 419 outfit who used a combination of plausible correspondence, phone calls and a fake bank website to reel in their victim.

We have appended the full email correspondence between DG and the 419 gang to the end of this article. The 419 fraudsters have falsely used references in the correspondence to "HSBC Republic Bank Plc" and "Clive Bannister". We wish to make it clear that both HSBC and Clive Bannister who works for HSBC) have no involvement whatsoever with the correspondence outlined in this 419 scam.

On 22 June 2004, DG transferred his last $1,000 via Western Union to an unknown location within the UK. He believed that the money would be used to set up an account with United Mercantile Credit & Investment Bank (UMCIB) in London into which $8m would then be transferred.

The illicit funds were courtesy of one Moser Gilmore, who had sadly died intestate and left the booty sitting around in a European bank, just waiting for a willing partner to claim his share of the loot. The 419ers initially contacted DG purporting to be investigators looking for Gilmore's relatives - a classic approach.

DG took the bait and offered himself as a willing accomplice in the transfer of the funds. Inconveniently, though, UMCIB required an initial deposit of $8,000 to activate DG's account. DG could not himself raise the required funds but - believing that one of his "partners" - was willing to make up the difference - he duly parted with $1,000.

Shortly thereafter, DG received confirmation from his personal "Relationship Manager" at UMCIB - James Cole - that the $8m was resting in his account. All he now had to do was access it .

DG found this rather more difficult than he had expected, since he was unable to log in to UMCIB's e-banking system. And no wonder, because UMCIB is, of course, a bogus bank. Its website gives 232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2 as its location. The Royal Mail lists no such address and our man on the spot confirms that the street numbers end at 82. Neither is UMCIB registered with the Financial Services Authority.

The bank's blurb makes entertaining reading:

About UCMIB

Since 1994, UMCIB has constantly shown an ability to work as a financial partner and confidante to Heads of States, Diplomats, Businesses, Prominent Individuals, Companies, Conglomerates and Governments worldwide.

Using our specialised London offices and various affiliate offices across Europe, we are well equipped and positioned to meet the international banking needs of our clients offering them utmost confidentiality and privacy for both personal and tax purposes.

Clients interests are our paramount concern.

Clients of UMCIB, do not require authorisation under the Financial services and Markets Act 2000 and as such are entitled and qualify for the Financial services Compensation scheme. Copies of the banks last audited reports are available to clients only and are sent to you via secure courier in your welcome pack containing your account information cards, pin and cheque books.

We offer our clients the use of our exclusive debit cards and ATM cards in over 50 Countries worldwide and access to over 50,000 ATM machines globally.

Credit facilities may be provided but are subject to status and available to customers/account holders only.

We would only deal with a nominated attorney/next of kin of our clients, we do not entertain third party discussions on or about our clients from any Individual or organisation.

All very reassuring.

www.umcib.com: registered to this Edinburgh blockInterestingly, www.umcib.com is registered to one "Simon Williams" at an address in an Edinburgh housing block (pictured left). The contact mobile phone number for a "Simon Williams" is continually engaged. Local sources confirm that there is no Simon Williams officially registered as a tenant at the address.

The site appears to be hosted in California. We emailed the hosts for their comments but they have not as yet replied to our query.

Calls to UMCIB's number as listed on its website are met with an answerphone. We left a message for Mr Cole asking if he would be interested in handling a large sum of cash we had acquired from an arms deal in Sierra Leone, but he did not return our call.

We therefore decided to ring Mr Cole on his personal mobile and enquire about DG's $1,000 dollars. Cole asked us: "What does he want? Does he want his money back?" When we replied that he would probably welcome that, Cole said: "Ask him to put any complaints down in writing and I will consider it."

We then asked Cole where DG should send his complaint, since the address for UMCIB was clearly false. Cole expressed surprise, but quickly became somewhat frosty when we suggested that UMCIB did not exist at all and was, in fact, nothing more than a front for a Nigerian 419 fraud in which he was a key player. At this point Cole insisted: "I don't know what you're talking about," and rather rudely hung up.

We rang the UK's National High-Tech Crime Unit to get its feedback on the scam, but were told that it does not deal with 419 frauds - these are handled by local forces. In this case, however, since there are neither real premises nor any clue as to where DG's cash was collected, it's difficult to say which local force might be appropriate.

At the time of publication, an email to the Metropolitan Police's SCD6 Economic and Specialist Crime OCU outlining the details of the case remains unanswered.

In conclusion, we'd like to reiterate what the Met's site says: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it is!" DG has been taken for $1,000 dollars he can ill afford and has no chance of ever seeing again. He allowed his desire for riches to suck him into a scheme that - even if true - he must have known to be illegal. He has no recourse to law and the 419ers are laughing all the way to their bogus London bank.

Blow-by-blow

Here is the complete, blow-by-blow account of how DG came to lose all he had to advance fee fraudsters:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sarah Londom" <sarahldupont@yahoo.co.uk>
To: <xxxx>
Sent: Friday, June 04, 2004 9:40 PM
Subject: H.S.B.C.## STANDARD CLAIMS ENQUIRY?

Date: 05/06/2004
Greetings,

Transfer of Title Enquiry:H.S.B.C.

My name is Sarah Londom. I work as an executive partner for the firm Dupont consulting and Londom, Investment Brokers and Security Consultants U.K.

We are conducting an end of year consolidated financial statement for the year ending Mar.2004 under conjunctional agreement with H.S.B.C. This notary enquiry involves a client who shares your surname and also the circumstances surrounding investments made by this client at H.S.B.C.(Republic) A Commercial and Investment arm of the parent Bank. It was brought to our knowledge that the formentioned client died in testate and nominated no next of kin to the title over the investments made with the Bank. We came to know of you via the London. Global. Database.Center (L.G.D.C.) Hence we are making this contact. The essence of this communication with you is to request that you provide us with information on 3 KEY issues.

1. Are you aware of any relative/relation who's last contact address was Brussels, Belgium?
2. Who shares a similiar name with thee?
3. Who' date of birth on file was 27/07/1932?

Thank-you for your time.

Best regards,

Mrs Dupont.Sarah Firth-Londom

E-Mail:SARAHLDUPONT@YAHOO.CO.UK

Of course, there is no "Dupont consulting and Londom". It's got a nice ring of authenticity about it, though, and our victim clearly believed in Londom's credibility, taking his first nibble at the hook:

Dear Mrs. Londom,

The only connection I see in your three questions is my father who passed away last year and was born in July of 1932.

Cheers,

DG

DG's reply provoked a quick response from one Clive Bannister*

Dear D,

I introduce myself as Clive Bannister, head of international operations including private banking at HSBC Republic. A contracted staff of HSBC Republic Bank PLC contacted you earlier concerning Mr. Moser Gilmore and an investment placed under our banks management 3 years ago.

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 . I contact you independently of our investigation and no one is informed of this communication.

I would like to intimate you with certain facts that I believe would be of interest to you. In 1997, the subject matter; Moser came to our bank to engage in business discussions with our private banking division. He informed us that he had a financial portfolio of 8.35 million United States dollars, which he wished to have us turn over (invest) on his behalf.

I was the officer assigned to his case, I made numerous suggestions in line with my duties as the de-facto chief operations officer of the private banking sector, especially given the volume of funds he wished to put into our bank. We met on numerous occasions prior to any investments being placed. I encouraged him to consider various growth funds with prime ratings. The favored route in my advise to customers is to start by assessing data on 6000 traditional stocks and bond managers and 2000 managers of alternative investments. Based on my advice, We spun the money around various opportunities and made attractive margins for our first months of operation, the accrued profit and interest stood at this point at over 10 million United States Dollars, this margin was not the full potential of the fund but he desired low risk guaranteed returns on investments.

In mid 2001, he asked that the money be liquidated because he needed to make an urgent investment requiring cash payments in Antwerp. He directed that I liquidate the funds and had it deposited with a firm in Holland. I informed him that HSBC Republic would have to make special arrangements to have this done and in order not to circumvent due process, the bank would have to make a 9.5 % deduction from the funds to cater for banking and statutory charges. He complained about the charges but later came around when I explained to him the complexities of the task he was asking of us. Cash movement across boarders has become especially strict since the incidents of 9/11.

I contacted my affiliate in Holland and had the funds available in mainland Europe. I undertook all the processes and made sure I followed his precise instructions to the letter and had the funds deposited at the Amsterdam based security consultancy firm, United Asset Management Company . United asset Management Company is an especially private firm that accepts deposits from high networth individuals and blue chip corporations that handle valuable products or undertake transactions that need immediate access to cash. This small and highly private organization is familiar especially to the highly placed and well-connected organizations. In Line with instructions, the money was deposited with United Asset Management Company. Moser told me he wanted the money there in anticipation of his arrival from Norway later that week. This was the last communication we had, this transpired around 25th November 1998.

In June last year, we got a call from United Asset Management Company informing us of the inactivity of that particular portfolio. This was an astounding position as far as I was concerned, given the fact that I managed the private banking sector I was the only one who knew about the deposit at United Asset Management Company, and I could not understand why Moser had not come forward to claim his deposit. I made futile efforts to locate Moser. I immediately passed the task of locating him to the internal investigations department of HSBC. Four days later, information started to trickle in, apparently Moser was dead. A person who suited his description was declared dead of a heart attack in Canne, South of France. We were soon enough able to identify the body and cause of death was confirmed. The bank immediately launched an investigation into possible surviving next of kin to alert about the situation and also to come forward to claim his estate.

If you are familiar with private banking affairs, those who patronize our services usually prefer anonymity, but also some levels of detachment from conventional processes. In his bio-data form, he listed no next of kin. In the field of private banking, opening an account with us means no one will know of its existence, accounts are rarely held under a name; depositors use numbers and codes to make the accounts anonymous. This bank also gives the choice to depositors of having their mail sent to them or held at the bank itself, ensuring that there are no traces of the account and as I said, rarely do they nominate next of kin. Private banking clients apart from not nominating next of kin also usually in most cases leave wills in our care, in this case; Moser died intestate.

In line with our internal processes for account holders who have passed away, we instituted our own investigations in good faith to determine who should have right to claim the estate. This investigation has for the past months been unfruitful. We have scanned every continent and used our private investigation affiliate companies to get to the root of the problem. It is this investigation that resulted in my being furnished with your details as a possible relative of the deceased. My official capacity dictates that I am the only party to supervise the investigation and the only party to receive the results of the investigation. You have unfortunately declared that you are in no way affiliated with this individual.

What this means, you being the last batch of names we have considered, is that our dear late fellow died with n o known or identifiable family member. This leaves me as the only person with the full picture of what the prevailing situation is in relation to the deposit and the late beneficiary of the deposit. According to practice, United Asset Management Company will by the end of this year broadcast a request for statements of claim to HSBC Republic, failing to receive viable claims they will most probably revert the deposit back to HSBC Republic. This will result in the money entering the HSBC Republic accounting system and the portfolio will be out of my hands and out of the private banking division. This will not happen if I have my way.

What I wish to relate to you will smack of unethical practice but I want you to understand something. It is only an outsider to the banking world who finds the internal politics of the banking world aberrational. The world of private banking especially is fraught with huge rewards for those who occupy certain offices and oversee certain portfolios. You should have begun by now to put together the general direction of what I propose. There is US$ 8,370,000.00 deposited in Amsterdam, I alone have the deposit details and they will release the deposit to no one unless I instruct them to do so. I alone know of the existence of this deposit for as far as HSBC Republic is concerned, the transaction with Moser concluded when I sent the funds to Amsterdam, all outstanding interactions in relation to the file are just customer services and due process. United Asset Management Company has no single idea of what's the history or nature of the deposit. They are simply awaiting instructions to release the deposit to any party that comes forward. This is the situation. This bank has spent great amounts of money trying to track this man's family; they have investigated for months and have found no family. The investigation has come to an end.

My proposal; you share similar details to the late fellow; I am prepared to place you in a position to instruct United Asset Management Company to release the deposit to you as the closest surviving relation. Upon receipt of the deposit, I am prepared to share the money with you in half. That is: I will simply nominate you as the next of kin and have them release the deposit to you. We share the proceeds 50/50. I would have gone ahead to ask the funds be released to me, but that would have drawn a straight line to me and my involvement in claiming the deposit. But on the other hand, you with the same very name as the original depositor would easily pass as the beneficiary with right to claim. I assure you that I could have the deposit released to you within a few days. I will simply inform the bank of the final closing of the file relating to Moser. I will then officially communicate with United Asset Management Company and instruct them to release the deposit to you. With these two things: all is done. The alternative would be for us to have United Asset Management Company send the funds to another bank with you as account holder. This way there will be no need for you to think of receiving the money from United Asset Management Company. We can fine-tune this based on our interactions.

I am aware of the consequences of this proposal. I ask that if you find no interest in this project that you should discard this mail. I ask that you do not be vindictive and destructive. If my offer is of no appeal to you, delete this message and forget I ever contacted you. Do not destroy my career because you do not approve of my proposal. You may not know this but people like myself who have made tidy sums out of comparable situations run the whole private banking sector. I am not a criminal and what I do, I do not find against good conscience, this may be hard for you to understand, but the dynamics of my industry dictates that I make this move. Such opportunities only come ones way once in a lifetime. I cannot let this chance pass me by, for once I find myself in total control of my destiny. These chances wont pass me by. I ask that you do not destroy my chance, if you will not work with me let me know and let me move on with my life but do not destroy me. I am a family man and this is an opportunity to provide them with new opportunities.

There is a reward for this project and it is a task well worth undertaking. I have evaluated the risks and the only risk I have here is from you refusing to work with me and alerting my bank. I am the only one who knows of this situation, good fortune has blessed you with a name that has planted you into the center of relevance in my life. Lets share the blessing.

If you find yourself able to work with me, contact me through this same email account. If you give me positive signals, I will initiate this process towards a conclusion. I wish to inform you that should you contact me via official channels; I will deny knowing you and about this project. I repeat, I do not want you contacting me through my official phone lines nor do I want you contacting me through my official email account. Contact me only through the numbers I will provide for you and also through this email address. I do not want any direct link between you and me. My official lines are not secure lines as they are periodically monitored to assess our level of customer care in line with our Total Quality Management Policy. Please observe this instruction religiously.

Please, again, note I am a family man, I have wife and children. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to what the consequences, but I know within me that nothing ventured is nothing gained and that success and riches never come easy or on a platter of gold. This is the one truth I have learned from my private banking clients. Do not betray my confidence. If we can be of one accord, we should plan a meeting soon. I await your response.

Clive.

* the name falsely used by the 419 fraudsters - see start of article

Hooked

DG immediately took the bait:

Dear Clive,

Thank you for the detail and forthright nature in which you describe the circumstances regarding Mr. Moser Gilmore. You can trust my confidence and discretion regarding your disclosure. I have no intention of betraying the information you have given me.

I am also a family man very close to the means in which you describe yourself. I have spent many a sleepless night wondering how I am going to provide college for my children and the life I want to provide them. I consider myself a good man who has always tried to live life the "right way" believing that what I give and the effort I put forth will determine the direct and exact proportion of what I will recieve. Who is to say this is not it?

Additonally I am not one to pass up an opportunity to change our lives. You describe the detail in which the investigation tried to contact the next of kin without success. Therefore I ask myself how anyone could be harmed by pursueing what you suggest? I see no way how anyone could be harmed, although in your position I'm sure you understand what the legal ramifications could be better than I. You seem to have thought that through I expect even better than you describe in an email to this stranger.

I do wonder with an investigation of this size, the amount of people who must have been envolved along the way like those who made the initial contact to me. Wouldn't one of these individuals raise a "red flag"? How are these type of things audited?

I think the next step would be for us to meet face to face to discuss how to pursue. Quite frankly however I do not have the funds as of late for that kind of travel so I am open to suggestion on how to do so. I sense that I share with you though a sense of urgency and absolute discretion.

Regards,

D

Clive Bannister* followed his initial email with reassurances and instructions:

Dear D,

I am aware that my lack of contact must have triggered your amazement. First I express my regrets at the situation and then I offer an explanation.

I am sorry at the snail pace this project has assumed, you must understand that it's a product of circumstances beyond my control. As I have mentioned, I have been extremely under the weather. I am only recently been able to pick my self up to get things moving. I have to take care of my health; the dividends of this project will amount to nothing for me if I drop dead before I can enjoy the fruits. So please accept my apologies for the tardy nature of business.

The second reason for the snail pace is the fact that we had an audit process; this audit process is instigated by external factors beyond the control of anybody within the bank. Official banking practise takes precedence over much we do here so we don't run foul of guidelines. But I must state that the audit of last week was much to our benefit. I have been able to input your details into the central management software for private banking through and electronic transfer of title mandate (ETTM) before the audit. This means I have imputed your details into the private banking mainframe before the audit and the audit had taken place and our affairs have been given a clean bill of health. It's now a fait accomplice. Having passed through the scrutiny of external authorities and found kosher then we are good, very good. There is no greater test for the work I have done that an external one.

The ability to access the management program and undertaking an ETTM means that I have by passed due process. I have been able to put in all your details and affirmed your status. When I say I have bypassed due process I mean that the normal process would be for the title beneficiary to make a series of sworn declarations, come for physical identification and come forward with some notary to get things to fly. This will not be the case for you. I have shielded you from this process. We have crossed the Rubicon and we have crossed it as victors already. Rest assured that all is well.

From this stage where do we go is the question. Well the answer is simple; you await contact from admin department. That is a process I can not control. Having done the ETTM, the program will manage the details and transfer it to the admin department for action. The admin department is to initiate contact with you and confirm that they have the right details. It's not a check it's just a confirmation so please don't be worried.

The way I imputed your details, I did it in such a way to make verbal contact with you by admin not necessary, but I think we should be double sure. If at all admin should call you the process flow demands they ask you the following questions (please do not be alarmed, they will never ask you anything other than the below details. I guarantee you that)

Name of deceased: Moser Gilmore

Mother's maiden name: Schwechter

Last known address: Wezeembeek Oppem. (Avenue Des Fleurs) Stockel Area. Brussels Belgium.

Date of birth: 1st Oct 1930

Age at time of death: 72 years

With the above, when the claims and verification department of the bank calls you, you can reel out this info to them and that's that.

Please don't we worried, as I said, there is no absolute fact that you will be called, but if at all you are they will ask you the above questions and nothing else. So don't be concerned about what story you have to tell them about how come you are related to the deceased. It's not a variable they ask, they will only act on the details submitted in the ETTM. These questions are what they are employed to ask, in fact, if they ask anything other than these questions, they could get in serious trouble so please believe me when I tell you that we are in control.

There should be questions in your mind about how the funds will be managed and where you are to keep the money. Please don't fret about this yet. I am in the system, when the time comes I will advise you because I too know you can't keep this money in your account. We will devise a way to keep this money in a legal and legitimate way without raising eye brows.

We are moving forward in transparency and trust. I am counting on you to treat me with the trust and respect I have extended to you.

I think you may be contacted before the expiration of a 5 day period, so please be at attention for communication from admin. Its either they call you or you receive a fax message or a document via courier. So let's wait and see what they do, but what ever happens, we are in control.

Now I have thought out 3 means through which we can receive our funds and would appreciate your input on the matter. The first is that I have pencilled down an offshore bank that specialises in operating accounts of this nature from anywhere in the world. These offshore banks are mostly constituted under tax free havens. We will only have to instruct United Asset management to transfer the money there once you have opened up the account.

The second option will be to inform United Asset management that you will be willing to travel to any of their payment centres in Europe to conclude this transaction in person. The third option will be to seek the services of a Lawyer in the U.K. who will act as your representative Attorney with respect to endorsement of documents at the United Asset management office. we can tie option 3 to option 1 and have the funds transferred to the designated account, as I hope to have everything concluded by the tail end of the week. I will definitely need your advise on these three options to see which best suits you.

I hope to hear from you soon as we try to formulate the best possible route within the shortest time frame whilst we work in unison. I'll be patiently awaiting your response.

I will call you shortly.

Sincerely,

Clive.

* the name falsely used by the 419 fraudsters - see start of article

Advance fee fraud

On 20 June, Clive Bannister* called DG and suggested a repository for the funds: The London-based United Mercantile Credit & Investment Bank (UMCIB). "Bannister"* suggested that DG open an account with UMCIB into which the cash could be channeled. DG's next email to "Bannister"* is as follows:

Hi Clive,

I just faxed my cover letter, UCMIB form, and ID documents to them [United Mercantile Credit & Investment Bank]. I will follow up with a phone call to them aprox. 1000 your Monday.

Cheers,

D

"Bannister"* now forwarded some apparently crucial details:

----- Original Message -----
From: clive bannister*
To: DG
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 11:43 AM
Subject: Re: Situation report

Hi D,

Schwecter is Moser's mothers maiden name. Pls keep me informed on the progress you make tomorrow regarding opening an account with UMCIB.

Clive

DG then received his first email from UMCIB. The advance fee fraud begins here:

21st June 2004

ATTENTION: DG

Dear Sir,

Your recent account application was succesful and your account needs to be activated, this account activation involves making of a minimum deposit into your account, this deposit remains yours and forms the first transaction on your account.

This deposit is mandatory for the following reasons:

1. As a result of you non-resident status here you are not subject to any local taxes and as such the costs of clearing the funds has to be present in your account first of all
2. The minimum deposit calculated based on the services to be rendered you is £4000.00[US$8,000.00] (FOUR THOUSAND POUNDS STERLING ONLY WHICH CONVERTED AT TODAY'S EXCHANGE RATE IS EIGHT THOUSAND US DOLLARS ONLY).
3. Once these funds are received and credited to your account, the Accounts Department would immediately issue you with your Account number and online Account Access from where you can transfer funds and or pay bills over the Internet.(This account Number Cannot be released to you until the minimum deposit is received)

This minimum deposit can be paid in one of two ways:
1. Bank To Bank Transfer: Usually Confirmable in 7-10 Working days
2. Direct Transfer: Usually Confirmable in 24Hours.

Once your account is activated we will send your your secure online logon via e-mail and also send our UMCIB WELCOME PACK (which contains your cheque book, debit cards and accompnying PIN by secure international courier).

Please note that at UMCIB, we use Relationship Managers, who are in-charge of individual accounts and who you will contact regarding your account from today.

Your Account Officer is:
James Cole
E-Mail: jcole@umcib.com
TEL: +44-7780 572 211

Please contact him immediately for details on how to activate your account.

ACCOUNTS DEPARTMENT UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK) 232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

DG's "Relationship Manager" quickly moved in for the kill:

Dear Sir,

Your account application was succesful and your account needs to be activated, this account activation involves making of a minimum deposit into your account, this deposit remains yours and forms the first transaction on your account.

This deposit is mandatory for the following reasons:
1. As a result of you non-resident status here you are not subject to any local taxes and as such the costs of clearing the funds has to be present in your account first of all
2. 2. Your account is set-up to handle sums over the minimum threshold of USD1,000,000.00 and as such the transaction would be scrutinised by the regulatory authorities here and questions would be asked as to the "Clean Source of Funds" being credited into an account with $0.00 Balance and no transaction history, delays would occur which could take as much as 90 Days to resolve.
3. The minimum deposit calculated based on the amount of your funds and the services to be rendered you is USD8,000.00 (Eight Thousand US Dollars Only).
4. Once these funds are received and credited to your account, I will prepare the requisite documentation and the Accounts Department would immediately issue you with your Account number and Online Account Access from where you can transfer funds and or pay bills over the Internet. (PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ACCOUNTS DEPARTMENT CANNOT ISSUE YOU AN ACCOUNT NUMBER PRIOR TO THE RECEIPT OF YOUR MINIMUM DEPOSIT)

This minimum deposit can be paid in one of two ways:
1. Bank To Bank Transfer: Usually Confirmable in 7-10 Working days
2. Direct Transfer: Usually Confirmable in 24Hours.

Thank You,

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

* the name falsely used by the 419 fraudsters - see start of article

There then followed a series of phone conversations between DG and Cole in which DG indicated that he could only raise $1000. Very kindly, Cole said he would see what he could do to come up with the balance. DG notes that this "sounded convincing enough to me because at this point I thought that UMCIB was a real bank!" Absolutely certain that he is about to hit the jackpot, DG presses on:

Dear Mr. Cole,

Thank you for your response and direction. My initial hope was to be able to deposit all the funds at once without starting off with the minimum deposit which is a problem for me at the moment. I will need to consider what I can do and will get back in touch with you via email as I understand the regulations you indicated.

Sincerely,

DG

At this point, Clive Bannister* re-enters, offering a lifeline which may save the deal:

Hi D,

I have been in meetings all day and will be leaving for Belfast tomorrow morning returning Thursday evening or Friday morning. I have received your instructions from UMCIB.

I'm also low on funds right now as I just paid schools fees for my kids but we should not let that slow us down or set us back a step after getting so close to receiving our fund.

I think for now, we should come together as one and see how much we can put together within the next 24-48hrs as we do not have time before we are contacted by UAM.

I should be able to put together the equivalent of $2000-$3000.You need try on your part to see how much you can come up with. I have the details for western union and as soon as we are able to put the fund together, I will send what I have to the bank as instructed. Do not let this slight hitch put you down as this is a minor hitch which we can overcome.

Please give it your best shot my friend and get back with me. I will be checking my email and voice mail regularly.

Best of luck,

Clive

Good as his word, "Bannister"* arranges for some funds to be transferred in DG's account, as UMCIB confirms:

Dear Sir,

This is to acknowledge receipt of US$2,000.00 deposited on your behalf by Paul Anderson.

The payment was made by Western Union to Thomas Baker and was received today 22nd June 2004.

Please make arrangements for the balance US$6,000.00 so we can completely activate your account.

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

It appears that "Thomas Baker" is an agent of UMCIB. DG is completely suckered:

Dear Mr. Cole,

Please note that I have sent an additional installment of $1,000 U.S. to be credited towards the opening of my account. A copy of the Western Union Money Transfer is attached to this email. I am the sender from the U.S. and it was sent to Thomas Baker. The MTCN is XXX-XXX-XXXX. More installements will be coming in the days ahead to meet the $5,000 balance and your minimum requirement to open my account. Please acknowledge the completion of the transfer when done.

Regards,

DG

The Register has seen the money transfer documentation and has confirmed that the funds were transferred to a UK branch on 22 June and collected by Thomas Baker. Western Union declined - for reasons of data protection - to divulge where exactly the money was collected.

James Cole confirmed receipt of the $1,000 dollars:

Dear Sir,

I will instruct Mr. Baker to pick up the funds and add to your activating deposit.

Thus, you have a balance of US$5,000.00 to activate your account.

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

At this point "Clive Bannister"* called DG and said that he had been able to secure the $5,000 dollar balance and had transferred it to UMCIB. Accordingly, the illicit funds would be transferred within 48 hours. Shortly afterwards, the big moment arrived:

Dear Sir,

US $8,370,000.00 has arrived here and you should have access to your account by Noon today.

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

* the name falsely used by the 419 fraudsters - see start of article

DG had previously received a username and password for UMCIB's "e-banking" facilities. They were, inevitably, useless. DG rang Cole who was "very short indicating that it was at the end of the day and he would have his people look at the problem tomorrow".

To his credit, Cole did his best to help DG access his riches:

Dear Sir,

It appears your computer is not enabled to accept the software of our e-banking system.

Please carry out the following tasks, if it doesn't work then try from a different PC.
1.Click On Internet Explorer
2.Go to The TOOLS MENU
3.Go to Internet Options
4.Go to Advanced
5.Scroll down the list and Click/Tick the check box enabling Java
6. Restart Your Computer
7. Log on to UMCIB and go to e-banking then enter your usernameand password, this will take you to the transfer page.

If this doesnt work, please call me, my direct line is: +44-778 057 2211.

Thank you

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

The penny has still not dropped. DG persists:

Dear Mr. Cole,

I apologize for mistaking your first name on the phone. Thank you for your direct phone number. I called the bank during your business hours a few days ago and received a recording.

Persuant to our phone conversation, I cannot access E-Banking or my account:
1. All Java applets are enabled on I.E. ver. 6.0.28
2. The result is the same on several computers
3. According to the coding on the web page there is nothing there to read.

Therefore the problem is not my computers or network. Additionally I have some unanswered questions.

When will I receive materials in the mail regarding the account and the "package" described on your website? Credit Card? Information on UCMIB? Procedures? Frankly I was expecting a more pronounced and pro-active response from UCMIB and I am not looking forward to any more delays. I have business to conduct which is now at a standstill.

I look forward to the resolution on Friday. I can be reached by phone in the U.S. anytime after 1600 GMT.

Sincerely,

DG

To which Cole replied:

Dear Sir,

Your welcome pack was sent out on Wednesday when your account access information was sent.

The accounts department insist that there is no problem from here and the problem is from your end.

They have advised that you try from an entirely different computer to those on your network as it appears our e-banking system is being restricted/inhibited by a program or the like on your system.

I apologize for the delays and inconvenience.

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

At this point, DG becomes increasingly desperate and apparently unwilling to contemplate the unthinkable:

Dear Mr. Cole,

I will go to a library or something today and try it from there. I must say there is no other place on the Internet where I have this problem. Also the URL prefix is HTTP not HTTPS. This indicates that this is not even a secure site to begin with so how could it be an "E-Banking" access page?

Additionally I have asked a few associates at other locations to view the page on their computers and they see exactly the same thing, a page with a blank frame and no square to enter any information. This includes a site in the UK.

Therefore the problem remains...how can the problem be on this end? It seems to be everywhere else as well and doesn't compute.

Please address this issue with them. I am standing by. Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

DG

DG quickly followed up the above with:

To: Mr. James Cole Re: E-Banking

In following with my last email regarding your "E-Banking" and my account, I have personally gone to the library and several other sites in different locations with assorted versions of operating systems and browsers. Additionally I have had associates from around the world check from their locations for the possibility of logging in to an account on the "E-Banking" page of your website. All the results are the same. The "E-Banking" page is blank and non-functional. The continued claim from your people for more than two days that nothing is wrong defies all logic and is obviously in error.

Additionally I have not received the "Welcome Package" or the return phone call from you I requested in my previous email. The casual and non-responsive attitude to seriously resolve this issue has erroded any confidence I previously had in UCMIB or it's credibility as an institution.

This issue needs to be resolved by July 3 at 1400 GMT.

Respectfully,

DG

Despite DG's growing anger, Cole remained calm:

Dear Sir,

I apologise most sincerely for the delays and your inability to access your account, however it is not a problem from our end as the system shows that everything is working perfectly and you are the only one with this problem, please try again and if the system persists please let me know.

James Cole
Relationship Manager
UNITED MERCHANTILE CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANK(UK)
232 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 6HQ UK

Finally, DG realised that he had been fleeced:

Mr. James Cole,

As I stated in my previous message the problem is not on my end. I am not the only one with the problem. Attempted access from multiple points around the world indicated the same problem. Your "E-Banking" page is nothing more than a blank web page. I have been patient and there has been no resolution.

I have received no welcome package nor from your response do I expect that I will. Your repetition of the same stand demonstrates nothing more than a delay tactic. It is now obvious what has happened here and it is time to get all the regulatory and legal authorities envolved in both our countries.

Sincerely,

DG

DG received no further correspondence from Cole, or any other member of the 419 gang. His $1,000 was gone and his chances of recouping his cash were zero.

Related link

In the very likely event that www.umcib.com ceases to be, we have a screen grab of its main page available here.

Bootnote

We thought we'd throw a bit of money away ourselves, and contacted the owner of www.umcib.com via the email address on the registration details to ask if he was willing to sell:

Hi there -

I got your email address from the whois register record for the domain www.umcib.com.

Myself and my colleagues were wondering whether you'd be interested in selling the domain to us. You see, we run a business called Uxbridge MotorCycle Injector Brotherhood - a sort of informal club.

We have, however, gathered quite a tidy sum from our 7,000 members to establish a website, hence this email to you. Suffice it to say we would be willing to pay a very reasonable price if you will release the domain to us.

Thanks you,

Big Lesley
Chairman
Uxbridge MotorCycle Injector Brotherhood

It seems strange that "Simon Williams" has not even had the courtesy to reply to our email. After all, there's hard cash on the table here ...®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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