Friday, November 16, 2007

Research grants: the new identity fraud scam

We have all become used to identity fraud scams coming from the daughter of the late Prime Minister of Burkina Faso; or lottery winning addresses for the UK National Lottery mysteriously coming from Yahoo Hong Kong addresses. I have just received a first, which I thought I would share with you. This is, to my knowledge, the first scam directed towards academics that I have ever seen. My comments in red:

SUBJECT: GRANT AWARD DONATION!! [Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a deceased mind]
FROM: [what, no or domain?]
REPLY TO: [and even stranger, the reply-to address is different, and from a cheap ISP. I'm getting suspicious now]

THE UK FOUNDATION FOR BASIC RESEARCH. [I'm going to ignore the fact that such body does not exist] [ ]

The Uk Foundation for basic research would like to notify you that you have been chosen by the board of trustees as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development [aren't I the lucky one?].The Uk Foundation for basic research was conceived with the objective of human growth, educational and scientific research, with a mind also for Community development. [you forgot to mention World Peace]

In conjunction with the ECOWAS [the Economic Community Of West African States? I'm starting to guess where this is coming from] ,UNO and the EU We are To celebrate the 30th anniversary program, We are giving out a yearly donation of £500,000.00 (five hundred thousand pounds sterling) each to 100 lucky recipients. These specific Donations/Grants will be awarded to 100 lucky international recipients worldwide; in different categories for their personal business development and enhancement of their educational plans. This is a yearly program, which is a measure of universal development strategy.

Based on the random selection exercise of internet websites and millions of supermarket cash invoices worldwide [wait, research grants given on the basis of supermarket cash receipts? Well, there's an idea for the UK research councils!], you were selected among the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of ( £500,000.00 ) Five hundred thousand dollars as charity donations/aid from the Uk Foundation, ECOWAS, EU and the UNO in accordance with the enabling act of Parliament [I'm guessing that telling us which Act of Parliament is out of the question?]. (Note that all beneficiaries email addresses were selected randomly from over 100,000 internet websites or a shop'scash invoice around your area in which you might have purchased something from).

You are required to contact the Claims Processing Manager below, for qualification documentation and processing of your claims. Please endeavor to quote your Qualification numbers (N-222-6647, E-910-56), REF Number: SW/90/0021/7896/56 BATCH No: 34/0065/KJY in all discussions [meaningless yet official-looking numbers make everything look better].

Executive Sec. MR. George Jackson.
Claims Processing Manager
TEL: +4470 1114 6946
FAX: +4470 9287 1710

1. Full Names:
2. Residential Address:
3. Direct Phone No:
4. Fax Number:
5. Email address:
6. Qualification numbers:
7. Sex:
8. Nationality:
9. Occupation:

[Now we're getting somewhere! They want my personal details... I smell identity fraud down the line].

Finally, all funds should be claimed by their respective beneficiaries,no later than 20 days after notification. Failure to do so will mean cancellation of that beneficiary and its donation will then be reserved for next years recipients.

On behalf of the Board kindly, accept our warmest congratulations [the comma should go after Board].

In your best interest to avoid mix up of numbers and names of any kind, we request that you keep the entire details of your award strictly from public notice until the process of transferring your claims has been completed, and your funds remitted to your account [Oops, does that mean that I won't be getting my research grant? Say it isn't so!]. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants/nonparticipants of this program [unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of others? Whoever heard of such a thing?].

Sincerely Yours,

THE PROMOTION COORDINATOR, [Note to future frauds: choosing a believable name would make your scam more effective. Mary Jackson would be a better option].


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I also check against the google search engine to see whether this is a scam and often 99.9 % can find that this verifies one's suspicion. A useful website is Fraudwatchers that one came across at

Anonymous said...

Andres, you forgot to remark upon the fact that the beneficiaries will be cancelled - does that mean that a contract killer will be hired by Foundation?

Andres Guadamuz said...

Oh my god! I'm about to be terminated!