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The FBI have just told me I'm sitting on a windfall of $40.1m... and suddenly I'm being targeted by another con email

By Lindy McDowell

Published 30/11/2016

Spam scam: criminals are always looking at new ways to hack into our accounts
Spam scam: criminals are always looking at new ways to hack into our accounts

The FBI have been in touch. I think I'm in big trouble. I've received an email which, it says, comes from Agent Andrew G McCabe.

I've googled this man and turns out he is (gulp!) the Deputy Director of the FBI.

Obviously this is serious stuff.

Agent McCabe's email begins pleasantly enough. He apologises, conceding that while usually the FBI don't communicate with citizens via email, this time it has been deemed necessary.

And why?

Apparently a package addressed to me (at my home address) has been intercepted by US Customs. This package contains $40.1m.

Of my money....

Now among the many obvious immediate questions ($40.1m! Really?) has to be this one - why would a package addressed to my home address in the UK be diverted through US Customs?

Okay, so President-elect Donald Trump may have the gall to poke his nose into UK politics by demanding that his Mini-Me, Nigel Farage be appointed Ambassador to Washington.

But surely he wouldn't go so far as to have the all the UK's mail redirected via Washington for US Customs' perusal.

Would he?

That's my $40.1m you have there, Donald.

I want it back.

Agent McCabe signals I can have it back.

However, he points out, the FBI does have some outstanding concerns before this can be processed.

And now, suddenly, the mood in his email changes from genial agent to SWAT team.

The FBI worries that my $40.1m stash might be the proceeds of money laundering, says Agent McCabe.

This would be in contravention of a federal law which he goes on to quote at some length.

As a result, he warns, if I do not reply to his email within 72-hours, the full weight of US law enforcement will descend upon my head.

Bearing in mind that this email landed in my inbox around about a month or so ago and I did not reply as requested, I suppose I can now assume that my next visit to the US will terminate in Rikers Island Correction Facility.

More importantly, I'm tempted to ask, what about my $40.1m?

I assume I'll just have to write that off as unavoidable loss. On the plus side I'm sure I can make up around about the same sum up in the next few weeks if I reply to all those other emails with which I'm daily bombarded.

You know the sort of thing.

Those emails telling me I've won £500 in Aldi or Morrisons or Argos or M&S, or offering me a free Dyson and Apple gadgets or large sums to bet in Ladbrokes or credit cards that will entirely revolutionise my financial standing.

What have I done to bring all this good fortune upon my head?

Been mug enough to give out my email address, that's what.

In shops and on websites you are now so routinely asked for your email address that it seems churlish and even odd not to rattle it out.

But the Information Commission's Office has in recent days expressed concern about how stores are now "harvesting" all our email addresses - under, for example, the guise of offering an e-receipt for purchases - and then using this info to ply us with further endless bumph promoting their wares.

This also helps big business build up a picture of our shopping habits.

More worrying - for a neurotic like me, anyway - is that these businesses may be earning even more from their "harvesting" by passing our info on to much more dubious parties. Including the likes of con-merchants - such as those posing as the entirely honourable Agent McCabe - who try to lure the gullible with fanciful stories of unexpected $40.1m windfalls.

Not so long ago I read an article about an Israeli expert who is regarded as the ultimate guru of future technology.

Interestingly, tellingly, this man doesn't have a smartphone himself or even goes near social media.

The analogy he used that struck me is this one - we are like indigenous tribes conned by early settlers, he says, into giving away our valuable resources in return for glass beads.

Put simply, we are giving away our private, precious data for the equivalent of glass beads.

Spam isn't just a irritant and a nuisance. It's also the tool of criminals ripping off the unguarded.

Is it not time we consumers became a bit more concerned about the combined harvesters of big business who are currently making hay from our private data? That $40.1m the con men dangle in front of all of us may seem a dazzling sum.

But really - and we should all be aware of this - it doesn't amount to all that much in terms of glass beads.

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