Example of Military Email Scam

 The email from Bill Betterman seeking help to get money out of Iraq is a typical example of the advance-fee-fraud scheme. The advance-fee fraud scheme has been made popular by the Nigerian 419 scam modification and finds its roots in the Spanish Prisoner scheme of the late 1800s.
We have seen a number of advance-fee-fraud variants with a military theme.

Some of the frequent variants to advance-fee fraud schemes that we see in the email example you provided:

Spammers asks victim not to reveal the proposed transaction to. Spammers chooses methods to communicate that provide secrecy and that are difficult to trace back. They often use free email accounts with which the provider does not validate subscriber information. The transaction will likely include fax exchanges at one point when the offender will use a relay service to help cover his/her tracks.

Frequent causes of victim’s financial losses: 

1) The Scammer will make multiple requests that the victim wire money to offender to cover a number of supposed transaction expenses (e.g. bribes to local officials or customs agents in the offender's locale, wire transfer fees associated with wiring money to victim, and handling fees).

2) The scammer will ask the victim to wire money as a sign of good faith so the scammer knows he can trust the victim with the money that he supposedly will wire him/her.

3) The scammer will finally ask the victim to send his/her bank account information to the offender so that he knows where and how to wire the money assured in the scam. Once the victim stops paying the supposed transaction expenses (as listed under #1 above), the offender will likely start draining the victim’s bank account using the account information provided by the victim. This process could include creating fake checks to be drawn on the victim's account.

 The military variant appeals to the support U.S. citizens hold for our enlisted servicemen and servicewomen. Thus, criminals look to take advantage of this support and the trust we place in our military personnel. We have also seen variations of the advance-fee fraud scheme that take advantage of the generous nature of U.S. citizens. These include schemes with the following charitable themes: AIDS, cancer, and Hurricane Katrina). There have also been variants that take advantage of the trust a person places in romantic partners/interests. The offender, typically a male, lures weak women through online dating sites and farms the relationship (online) to the point at which the criminal begins asking the victim for money. The money will allegedly pay for the offender’s travel expenses to see the victim.

Advance-fee fraud schemes accounted for approximately 10% (9.8% exactly) of the complaints made to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) during 2009. This kind was the third most frequently reported type of fraud made during 2009 (passing even identity theft - which was 4th with 8.2%). The median loss per victim of advance fee fraud that started when the victim was first contacted via the Internet was $3,000 (Internet Crime Complaint Center, 2004).

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