True Crime Thursday – Are You Dead or Alive Scam

by Debbie Burke


Photo credit: Annie Spratt – Unsplash


Attorney Steve Weisman runs a great website called where he posts daily updates about scams making the rounds. I subscribe to it and highly recommend it to keep current with the latest iterations concocted by criminals.

Added bonus: scams make good story fodder in the devious minds of crime writers.

Recently Steve wrote about a particularly funny email from Nigeria (quoted with Steve’s permission):


“From: Mr. Chris jack <>
Sent: Thu, May 6, 2021 10:26 am
Subject: Good Day

I am writing to confirm if you are DEAD or ALIVE and failure to reply back within 48hrs, simply means what Rev Patrick Larry said today was right that you are dead. As he was trying to claim your compensation funds worth $ 850,000.00 from United Nations for USA scams victims. Rev Patrick Larry has offered to pay the needed fee for the Bond Stamp Duty fee of your funds, but we have not gotten the money from him yet, as we want to find out if you are dead or not, Below is the information needed from you Name: ______ Phone: _________ Address: ________Email:
_______ Occupation: __________ So if you are still alive you are advice in your own best interest to reply back immediately with your full details as stated for your funds.Best Regards,
Mr Chris jack,
chairman payment transfer department IMF.”

That rascal Rev Patrick Larry is spreading false rumors about your demise, while greedily attempting to cash in on compensation that’s rightfully due to you.

How dare he?

Of course, there is no United Nations fund that compensates scam victims.

A Bond Stamp Duty fee is typical scammer BS. To an unsuspecting victim, the term sounds official but is totally bogus.

If an innocent soul fell for this, the next email might request payment of the Bond Stamp Duty fee by a gift card or wire transfer (both of which are untraceable and cannot be recovered). Mr. Chris jack also needs bank account details so he can deposit the $850K. And for good measure, better include the beneficiary’s Social Security number in case taxes have to be withheld.

For the beneficiary’s further convenience, Mr. Chris jack also graciously sent a link to click…that downloads malware.  

Side note: I learned about the above criminal tactics from Steve and Scamicide.

If you receive such an email, you could respond by quoting Mark Twain: 

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

On second thought, better to just hit the trash button.



Are you dead or alive? 

In the comment section, please share the latest scam email you or someone you know has received. 




In Stalking Midas, a glamorous con artist creates an elaborate scam to bilk senior citizens who are concerned about their pets. Please check out Debbie Burke’s thriller at Amazon or other online retailers.


This entry was posted in #amwriting, #truecrimethursday, Writing and tagged , by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

34 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – Are You Dead or Alive Scam

  1. Debbie, thank you for this morning’s post regarding scams. The woods are full of them.

    I ran into one just last week. I know a lady of a certain age (she is the mother of one of my lifelong friends) who remains quite sharp mentally but occasionally needs assistance separating the wheat from the chaff in her mail. She called me because she had received an official-appearing letter from a company in Virginia telling her that she “might” have unclaimed funds. She was given seventy-two hours to send the company thirty dollars, at which point she would receive her “benefit file.” There was no phone number, just an address (it was a UPS Store box). I imagine that if someone sent the company thirty dollars there would be more letters with more requests for processing fees. My friend, on the advice of counsel, shredded the letter.

    As far as your question as to whether I am living or dying is concerned, Debbie…I don’t know. As Godel noted, the bicycle cannot explain itself.

    Have a great day, Debbie!

    • At my monthly lunch with Crazy Cat Cousin who is about eighty, she talked about receiving a call from an unfamiliar local number that went to voice mail. Curious, she called back, but the person didn’t have a clue about the call. I explained what a phone number spoof call was several times with increasingly easy terms, and she still was totally clueless. I doubt she’d ever fall for a scam because she uses voice mail and listens to only numbers she recognizes, but it still was a dang good example of why some folks fall for scams.

    • Speaking of Gödel, I believe it was another logician, Charles Dodgson, who posed the question, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” The answer, of course, is that you can’t ride either one like Gödel’s bicycle.

  2. I have good spam filters, but every now and then one gets through. I’ve been sharing them on my Facebook page.

    The latest was short and “sweet.”

    Good day,
    I have a deal of US$19,900,000.00 for us.
    I await your swift response for more details.

    And there was this one:
    Hey there,
    Hope you are doing well? I can’t call at the moment, that’s the reason why I emailed you. If you don’t mind, do you have an account with Amazon?

    Or, the more typical:

    Greeting from Mr. Heng Samang.
    I know this means of communication may not be morally right to you as a person but I also have had a great thought about it and I have come to this conclusion which I am about to share with you.
    INTRODUCTION: I am the Credit Manager Foreign Trade Bank Cambodia and in one way or the other was hoping you will cooperate with me as a partner
    in a project of transferring an abandoned fund of a late customer of the bank worth of €5.800,000 Euro (five million,eight hundred thousand Euros)
    This will be disbursed or shared between both of us in these percentages, 60% to me and 40% to you.
    I await your response with your full names, telephone, home or office address so that we can commence on this project as soon as possible.
    soon as possible.
    Reply to this Email:
    Mr. Heng Samang.
    Credit Manager Foreign Trade Bank
    Phnom Penh-Cambodia

  3. Great post, Debbie. Thanks for the laugh.

    Why is it that so many of these scams come from Nigeria? What subject are they teaching in school that molds the students into such entrepreneurs?

    Last I checked, I was still alive. If I am not, and you don’t receive this comment, please let me know. (Also include your social security number and checking account number).

    Have a great scamful day!

    • they come from Nigeria because they’ve always come from Nigeria. They used to come on Arrow grams. They are also called 409 scams which is the part of the Nigerian Penal Code that covers wire fraud. It’s a crime they simply don’t prosecute. About a decade ago a man in Canada was very upset because his mothers life savings was wiped out by a Nigerian prince. He discovered there was nothing that he could do with the Nigerian or Canadian police. So we went to the building across from the Nigerian embassy and his deer rifle send a loud and clear message to the ambassador

  4. As my father-in-law says, “I’m upright and taking in nourishment. Which means it’s another great day.”

    Great post, Debbie. Years ago, I had a friend whose parents fell for the Nigerian prince scam, and gave away their retirement nest egg. So sad.

  5. I loved reading the Dead or Alive letter, Debbie. Are all scammers grammatically challenged?

    Thanks for the link to I took a look at the site and noticed a scam for counterfeit Covid-19 vaccination cards. Here’s what scamicide says: ” In recent weeks custom officials have seized more than 14 shipments of counterfeit vaccination cards sent from China.” That sounds more like a felony than a scam.

    Btw, my husband and I had to show our (legal) vaccination cards recently in order to eat at a restaurant in NYC. It’s the first time I’ve been carded in a long time. 🙂

    • Kay, “grammatically challenged” is usually the first tip-off that a communication is a scam.

      Interesting about needing proof of vax to eat in a restaurant. What a world.

  6. Loved your post. I have to stop reading these so early in the morning. I was initially going to say I was DEAD on my feet because I hadn’t had my coffee yet. But I got things clicking.

    There is one email scam I had this week. Turns out good old Ben Lucas is wanted for crimes in Germany. Okay, then they can come and get me. (FYI Ben Lucas is my pen name – which is funny.) I have created a wanted man.

    Also, I believe I had another email from Africa where my Outlook account needs updating. However, I think that is the first step to giving your info and then you’re in ransomware territory. I think it’s African because there’s a profile pic associating with the email address and a strange spelling of the name the sender is using. If those guys used professional editors for their scams they could be more successful.

    Have a great day.

    • Actually, correct grammar and lack of tell-tale signs in the “Nigerian” emails would slow the scammer down with unproductive replies. He’s not looking for people who are mentally sharp; he’s looking for the elderly and the simple-minded, who won’t notice the gaffes.

      More effective by far is scaring the victim into thinking his computer is infected with a virus, or an account disabled, and telling him to “click this link.” A friend of mine clicked the link, and soon found that NOW his computer WAS infected and the scammer had transferred $1500 out of his bank account.

    • Hope Germany doesn’t extradite you, Ben! We’d miss ya at TKZ.

      Scary that all you have to do is click on a poisonous link and your life can become a living hell.

  7. One of the most horrifying short stories I’ve ever read is about a man who gets up, eats plain toast, walks to work, goes to his cubicle without anyone paying attention to him, types in numbers to a database, goes home to his empty apartment, eats another bland meal, and goes to bed. Rinse and repeat. The reader realizes by the end of this character’s day that he’s dead, totally unaware of it because he was already dead inside, and repeating his dead days over and over again. Most readers feel pity by the end of the story, but those of us who see a bit too much of our own lives in his feel the true horror of the story.

    So, dead or alive? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell.

  8. Very much alive, Debbie, unless this whole reality thing is a virtual matrix and I’m the figment of a superior power’s imagination in which case I wish it would imagine a large deposit into my bank account.

    Every month or so I get a scam email, and I immediately forward it to Sue Coletta for her to look after. Sue’s good that way. But one time I had some spare time and personally responded to the scammer. I wrote a blog post about it titled “How To Scam Nigerian Funds For Your Time Machine”. Here’s the link if anyone wants a chuckle:

  9. A couple of weeks ago a friend got an offer from a sugar mama to be a sugar baby. $5000 a month. All she needed to do was send her bank information to confirm the transfer and pay a transfer fee. I got a fake fraud alert. Somebody said that I had fraudulently a fraudulent charge on my Venmo account. I didn’t have that much of my Venmo account I said go ahead and process it

  10. Many of these scams are variations of “The Spanish Prisoner” scam. Send me something small and I’ll send you a fortune. What is amazing is that it still works. The Nigerian Prince variation still makes millions for its scammers every year. The internet allows them to reach a huge number of people so even a very low return rate makes it worth it. What was it that the great P.T. Barnum said about one being born every minute?

  11. I was on a thriller panel when a gentleman in the audience asked if I ever worried bad guys taking my crime or murder scenarios and using them in the real world. My answer was quick. “No matter what we come up with as writers, the bad guys have either already thought of it, or have even better ideas they’ve already used.”

    Good post to remind everyone about situational awareness in all things.


    • Great comeback, Rev. We can’t make up anything as bizarre as real life.

      “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” ~ Mark Twain

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