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This article was published on October 13, 2008

Nigerian Workshop: How to defraud an iPhone with fake Citibank emails

Nigerian Workshop: How to defraud an iPhone with fake Citibank emails
Toivo Tänavsuu
Story by

Toivo Tänavsuu

Journalist and blogger Toivo Tänavsuu is from Estonia and just released his new business, IT and innovations weblog about "enterprises, roar Journalist and blogger Toivo Tänavsuu is from Estonia and just released his new business, IT and innovations weblog about "enterprises, roaring like tigers", TigerPrises.com. He shares some of his best stories on The Next Web.

What do we know about Nigeria? That it’s one of the poorest nations in the world. Nigerian GDP per capita is only about 4% of what US has. But one certainly can’t say that Nigerians aren’t smart. Defrauding, for example an iPhone or a laptop from some naive and not-too-smart European is piece of cake for some of them.

Forget about chain letters, and spam, where someone unknown desperately begs you to send just a bit of money to his account, so that he could “buy out” a huge unexpected heritage from passed away relative. And split it 50:50 with you afterwards, of course. That’s an old way of cheating people online. And it’s history.

In 2008 swindlers use considerably more sophisticated, yet very simple scams. And surprise-surprise, they gave a fling on me!

I had an iPhone. Bought it in the US, brought it to Estonia, unlocked it and used it for a while. But about four months was enough for me to realize: this “superstar” gadget is not worth all this buzz around it. If you want to know why I think that, please stay tuned, there will be a follow-up on that from me.

But today I want to discuss the fraud attempt of some Nigerians. Here’s how they wanted to fool me: 

Juliet Malcos from Liverpool wants my iPhone

I had just put my iPhone for sale in local Estonian commercial announcements website Soov.ee, when I received a surprising purchase request via Gmail. Apparently from a lady named Juliet Malcos, according to her Yahoo e-mail address. She was claiming to live in Liverpool, UK (that’s 3000 kilometers from where I live) and she was interested in “immediate purchase” of my item. Her desperate cry for my abandoned iPhone was so loud, that she offered me 600 euros for the piece (175 euro more than I wanted at first place), plus recoup of the shipment costs.   

We exchanged several e-mails. But here’s the funniest part: She said the phone was needed for her daughter’s school project. Her daughter was about to leave from Heathrow airport to Nigeria for this project. 

So I had to hurry up. “The British lady” asked for my account number, but more importantly, she asked me to send the phone via DHL or FedEx over to address “Temitope Johnson, 1 Balogun Street, Mokola, Ibadan city, Oyo State, 23402 Nigeria”, while she would “rush” into her bank for money transaction.

Confirmations from Citibank

The next day an email pops into my Gmail-box, letter with some copy-paste logos from CitiBank:

Sender: CitiBank Service [email protected]

Message: Transfer money between your Citi and non-Citi accounts.
Dear Valued Customer:Toivo Tanavsuu,
We have received the order for the transfer of the full payment of EUR 600.00€ from our client,the buyer of your item Mrs Juliet Malcos.
We have authorized the immediate transfer of the full payment to your bank details provided below.
We have concluded the procedure for the transfer of the full payment to your account with authorization code: 401-280190-1-59-0
Estimated Date Of Transfer :       Thursday,09th of October ,2008
                                                           19:23:12 %2B4000 (EDT)

Based on our security measures for the protection of our customers,the payment transfer has been encrypted with a password prior to the receiver of the proof of shipment by our client.
We will send you the password for the release of the money to your accounts after you have sent the scanned receipt of shipment to Mrs Juliet Malcos. Alternatively you can send it to our account section with the contacts provided below.

This is the new directive from our Risk Management Team.

You can go ahead now to ship out the item to Mrs Juliet Malcos.
The CITIBANK MANAGEMENT will send you the password to activate your bank account within the next 72 hours of your sending the evidence of shipment to your buyer.

e-mail : Citi-Bank Correspondent:[email protected]


So what she wanted me to do was to send my iPhone over to Nigeria. Only after I have made the shipment and sent the shipment verification number to the so-called Citibank, they would be able to complete the transfer of my 600 euros. But we all know that the abbreviation for word “telephone” is not “tell”, but “tel”..

Anyway, only few hours later I received another e-mail from “CitiBank Service” saying the payment of Mrs. Malcos had been processed successfully and that it could take 24 to 72 hours till my bank would confirm this. That is, whenever the shipment was verified.

Some people actually fall for it

Well, eventually I had to disappoint my “Nigerian pal” Juliet. Didn’t send the phone to Africa. I guess there’s no need to say that I saw no 600 euros in my account either. She underestimated me big time!

People, please warn your naive friends about this! Some offers are too good to be true. And I am not the only one targeted with breath-taking offers “from UK”.

Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht published a story about an Estonian, how he was selling his smartphone, just as I did sell mine. Apparently “Mary Jones“ from UK contacted him and wanted to purchase the piece for her friend who lives in Nigeria.

DHL wants you to think twice

The exact same story: just send the piece over to Nigeria please, via DHL and you will have 500 wasy euros in your account! Confirmation e-mails from “CitiBank Service” and everything. The guy was also lucky, because he saw this through as well. But played along for a while.

But unfortunately some of us, Estonians, haven’t been that fortunate. I was speaking with DHL Estonian representatives and they told me that one other guy fell for the scam. He sent his laptop over to Nigeria, believing all these nice promises coming from UK. The fraudulent pilgrimage of his laptop was stopped by DHL in Nigeria, but poor guy had to pay several hundred dollars for the shipment forth and back, before the item was returned to him.

So from now on, every time somebody wants to send something from Estonia over to Nigeria, DHL asks to double-think. They say from their wide experience that Nigerian con men are also pretty active in environments like eBay.

Where things stand between me and Juliet iss hard to tell, because the situations is bizarre. She is still writing me e-mails asking for the shipment receipt.

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