Tuesday, May 6, 2014


  After so many dead-end correspondences from scammers, it was nice to hear from someone who was a sucker for my idiot routine:

Zao Lin <creas@esteio.rs.gov.br>

      Compliment of the day to you. My name is Zao Lin Business Relationship Manager with the Agricultural Bank of China in Hong Kong, I have a Business  proposal for you.Please respond to my email so i can give you more information.(zaolin5678@qq.com)

Best Regards,
Zao Lin

 I'm always interested in business proposals, especially from total strangers several thousand miles away. I quickly replied:
Hello, Zao, whaddaya know? I am mighty glad you got in touch with me, my Sino friend. You Chinese peoples are getting mighty good at business.  I'm not really what you'd call a businessman myself, unless you call shoveling horseshit in the glue factory down the road a business. I always think it's funny that there's a picture of a bull on those glue bottles when it's made out of horse hoofs. That's the difference between us peoples. You eat horses, we use them for glue. Weird!

So let me know what you have in mind. I'm ready to throw down my shovel for good.

Chester Hooten

PS: Let me know if you ever need some glue. We get it at a discount.

Zao didn't seem interested in my offer, perhaps because his was so much better:

Apr 22 at 5:24 AM
Hello and Good day to you.

Thank you for your response to my message. I have been hoping for your response.
I am Mr. Zao Lin; I work as a Business Relationship Manager with the Agricultural Bank of China in Hong Kong. I have decided to contact you regarding the estate of a deceased client with a similar last name and an investment placed under our banks management many years ago. I hope I have not embarrassed you as I got your name from our Chamber of Commerce Directory. 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 and no one is informed of this communication. In 2005 the deceased; Mr. Thomas Hooten came to our bank to engage in business discussions with our private banking division. He informed us that he had a financial portfolio of $ 22.350 million (Twenty Two Million Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States dollars) which he wished to have us invest on his behalf.

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 $ 1.8 million United States Dollars. In mid-2006, he instructed that the principal sum ($ 22.350M) be liquidated because he needed to make an urgent investment requiring cash payments in Hong Kong. We got in touch with a specialist bank in Hong Kong, Ping an Bank who agreed to receive this money for a fee and make funds available to Mr. Thomas. However Ping an Bank got in touch with us last year that this money has not been claimed. On further enquiries we found out that Mr. Thomas was involved in an accident in Mainland China, which means he died intestate. He has no next of kin and the reason I am writing you is because you both share the same last names.

What I propose is that since I have exclusive access to his file, you will be made the beneficiary of these funds. My bank will contact you informing you that money has been willed to you. On verification, which will be the details I make available to my bank, my bank will instruct Ping an Bank to make payments to you. You do not have to have known him. I know this might be a bit heavy for you but please trust me on this. For all your troubles I propose that we split the money in half. In the banking circle this happens every time. The other option is that the money will revert back to the state. Nobody is getting hurt; this is a lifetime opportunity for us. I would want us to keep communication for now strictly by this email.

Please, again, note I am a family man; I have a wife and children. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to 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 act swiftly on this. Please get back to me immediately via the telephone, fax number or email address below and let me know if you intend to assist or not. If you also do not want to be involved kindly let me know so I would sever further communication with you.

I await your response.

Whoa! Thomas Hooten -- a guy with the same last name as my fictional character -- just happened to die in China! What are the odds? I had to give Zo a background story:

Yo Zao,

Thomas Hooten was my great uncle third removed on my step-grandfather's side! We always wondered what happened to him. One day, he went out to get some tapioca and a carton of Chesterfields, and never came home. If you ever met his wife, you'd know why. Ugly as a hassock, that woman was, with the intelligence of a doorjamb. I'm glad the guy got out of there when he did. He always did like Chinese food, so I'm not surprised he wound up in The Land of Chicken Chow Mein.

As for your proposal -- I'll take half of anything offered to me! And half of his fortune is a pretty damn big half, alright alright alright! Let me know what to do so I can start counting that vo-de-o-dough. By the way, I trust you 105% to give me what's rightfully mine. You have a name I can trust.

Your pal,
Chester Hooten (the almost-millionaire)

Just a glance at his reply told me he was hooked. And I knew he actually read my previous message in its entirety because he referenced it in the first paragraph. (If you don't want to plow through the entire email, it boils down to this: Zo has the money, he wants all my personal information. We need to act with honor and courage. And it's all on the up and up):

Hello & Greetings of the day to you,
I thank you for taking out time to promptly respond to my e-mail. I admire the fact that you know a bit about one of our special delicacies.
Like I have indicated in my email to you, I urge that you keep every detail of this intended business to yourself as I still work for the bank. Even after the successful completion, details have to be kept discreet for the sake of the future. Let me use this opportunity to reassure you that this project is 100% legal, safe and risk free. Please know that only trust is the basic foundation for the success of this project as I do not know you nor do you know me.

 I have taken my time to outline details of this pending transaction of ours, and I need you to please study carefully and respond back with the required details(Just as a reconfirmation of what I already have), as this will enable me go ahead to have a local solicitor here begin to prepare the required paperwork for the release of the funds in question. The uniqueness of your name has made it possible for us to come together and carry out this pending business transaction with a view to sharing some decent money. I have had to take time to outline the stages so I can have you understand clearly the picture of this transaction. I want you to carefully study this email and reconfirm the details required so I can subsequently provide you with the required documentation that show proof of the deceased's funds.
Like I explained to you in my letter, the funds are funds belonging to the mentioned and I was in charge of his account while he was alive. I facilitated his transaction with the named Bank. Until his death he had no next of kin as he obviously did not envisage he was going to die soon. It is for this reason I have contacted you because you share the same last name with him and you would be able to assist me in receiving the funds after which we will share the proceeds equally once the transaction is complete. Note that my bank had mandated me with the responsibility of finding his next of kin and I have chosen you as the beneficiary as he left no next of kin when filling his account opening form years ago. By virtue of my position I have the authority to say who the right inheritor is and nobody can question my submission as I have decades of banking experience and I know the rules like the back of my hand and moreover I have been given that responsibility. It is important to note that if we do not act fast and claim these funds, it would be confiscated by the Chinese Government. In these harsh economic times one cannot throw away an opportunity like this as it may never come again. We need to show courage and determination in order to achieve success in this transaction. We are not to be seen as two people who have any pre-knowledge of one another or be seen to be having these conversations with each other. My only official knowledge of you should be seen to be the fact that your names and address were stated in documents which he had attested to as his next of kin.
At this stage I have exclusive access to the files of the deceased and I will be instructing a local solicitor here whom I have initially contacted to prepare all the documents in your name i.e. Affidavit of testament of WILL including probate letters stating you as beneficiary as well as next of kin and sole executor to his estate (which includes cash). This will then be put in his file and presented to my bank for verification and immediate action. Based on my ground work, the funds transfer to you will be approved and then authorization given to the holding Bank to make payment to you. The solicitor that is going to prepare the documents does not know the full details of the transaction as I have only informed him that I am helping a deceased client's relative to pursue release of inheritance that is due to him. He has charged me a huge amount for his services and I intend to pay it so he can immediately prepare these documents and we can have this transaction commence without any further delays. I need you to follow and adhere to my every instruction and do exactly as I will advise for success to be gained. You must let me direct this project for us to achieved the step by step anticipated procedures to ensure success. This is not negotiable my friend as we go into partnership. It is when there is no leadership and no meeting of minds that there are problems in partnership like this.
Everything is going to be done in sequence and I will imagine that the whole process should take about 4 weeks before money will be in your possession. Please this is very important and your total commitment is what is desired.
At this stage I will welcome any questions you have to ask so you understand the transaction to its fullest. We are going to take this matter on a step-by-step basis. However something that I must point out to you at this stage is that there is no wrong on your part. At the end of the day it is the bank that will be contacting you to inform you that money has been left for you, or similarly, if you contact the bank, they are the ones who will do their ground work, and then confirm that you are the right inheritor so you are doing absolutely nothing wrong or taking any risk as I solely bear all the risks. The only person who could have disputed this is long gone. You must understand why there must be serious confidentiality about this whole process as that is why I decided to contact you.
The payment institution is a specialist bank, which deals with high net worth individuals and giant corporations. I have my contact there to make sure that nothing goes wrong. As soon as my bank has gone through all formalities with verification of document I put in file, they will instruct them to make payment to you.
You shall be required to reconfirm to me with some important details i.e. the following details from you is needed for the the preparation of all legal claims documents and the documentation process has to contain your correct and exact details as you want it in the documentation. As soon as I have made the necessary amendments, you become the legal beneficiary and the bank will be liable to make payment to you after due verification.
The information I need are follows; Full Names as shown on most valid mode of identification so as not to contradict those will be reflected on the legal claims documents to be prepared, Address, telephone and Fax Number. I do have your address but simply need you to re-send this as a means of reconfirmation as a matter of precautionary protocol.
It is important you provide a complete information of yourself as they might contact you using any of these media and this is what the local solicitor is going to use to prepare the documents. He has assured me that the documents would be ready in less than 48-72 hours and once it is ready I would send copies to you via email attachment or fax. I would give you more details of the deceased in my next correspondence with you once I have received the required details.
I look forward to your immediate response.
Respectfully & With Honor,

Now was the time to play chicken (and not chow mein):
A double greetings to you!

Well, this is all coming together very nicely. I'm glad I have the same last name as a dead multimillionaire. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gotten in touch with me. Who says death is a bad thing? Well, maybe for the person who died, but not me (at least in this case). No way I want the Chinese government to take the money that is rightfully mine to steal. 

You know, at first I was afraid that this whole thing was what we Americans call a hoax (pronounced "hoxe", not "ho-ax," which is what a hooker used to kill the guys who don't pay up). The name Ping an Bank sounded like "piggy bank", which made me question how solid this thing was. But I looked it up on the internet thing and there it was! It says "embraces a brand-new future", which is what I'm going to do once I get my hands on that money. By the way, is it in dollars or yen or whatever it is you people spend on Levis and Barbie dolls?

But still -- and please don't take offense, because I know you signed "respectfully" on your last email -- I still can't be sure you are who you are. Before I give you my information, can you email some kind of identification, like a copy of your bicycle license? In the USA, bicycle licenses are the best form of ID, other than stool sample. (You can't email me a stool sample, can you?) So I would trust a bicycle license.

Hope to hear from you soon, my new friend Zao. Just make sure you send a copy of your bicycle license, then we can do business like we do in the USA. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Chester Hooten, the luckiest guy in the world.

Usually scammers make an effort to provide a semiofficial-looking ID when asked. Not this guy -- perhaps because he might have smelled a rat, as he implies in the third paragraph:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your prompt correspondence.

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail and also to let you know that there is absolutely nothing to be worried about.

I did have a few reservations about the content of your message but decided to let is pass. I do understand that we have no previous knowledge of one another and as such, it is okay for you to be apprehensive.

However, please be informed that in the course of this process, at the point where the funds are to be approved for release to you, you will be given the options of either travelling here personally to witness the entire process in a prefunds release physical endorsement exercise, or having a solicitor represent you in the case that you are not able to make it here in person.

With a view to this, if you have any doubts or reservation, all you need to do at that point is opt to be here in person. What more assurance can there be.

Having said this, please refer back to my previous detailed message if you are interested in partnering with me on this to enable us move on with the necessary as time is indeed of the essence.

I await your soonest correspondence.

It was time to drop the hammer:
Dear Mr. Lin:

I assume you're a mister and not a miss; I'm not up on these Chinese names, other than Charlie Chan.

Well, I didn't mean to insult you; I was just a little paranoid, seeing how you, a total stranger from China, wanted all my personal information. But I have good news! Not only am I ready to partake in this financial windfall with you, I'm happy to take you up on your offer of coming to China to witness the transaction! This is going to be the first time I've traveled outside America, so I need to get a passport. Once I get the passport, I'll send you a copy -- that should be good enough right?

Now, I know it takes a while to get a passport... BUT I have an uncle who works for the State Department, and he can speed things up. He even wants to come with me so he can meet you in person. Have you ever met someone who works for the government? I bet not. Well, here's your chance! He's thrown a lot of people in jail, but you don't have to be worried, because you're not a criminal. You just want to help me.

So, Zo, keep my money warm. Pretty soon, we'll be counting our fortune -- and I don't mean cookies!

Yours, mine and ours,
Chester Hooten 

Zo didn't seem to want to meet my uncle, for I never heard from him again. Not a very social guy, I guess.


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