Scams and spams

Trent Ernst, Editor

I recently got the strangest scam email I’ve ever seen.

The contents were pretty familiar.

“Dear Ernst,” it said. “I am an accountant and independent underwriter, I work for one of the offshore financial institutions here in the United Kingdom.”

Okay, let’s stop there. The letter did come from London, but from London, Ontario, but “This letter was mailed out to you while I was in Canada for official meetings.”

You see what’s so strange about the email scam? It wasn’t email at all. It was an actual, honest-to-goodness physical letter.

That means these scammers are getting enough people biting on their schemes to afford to do the research to track me down and to pay for the stamp to send it.

Let’s continue. “I am aware this letter has come to you as a surprise. As we have not met before, or handle any business dealings in the past. Nevertheless, I have contacted you with genuine intentions.”

Pausing again. Anyone who tells you their intentions are genuine … well, you know the drill.

“I got your contact information when going through an old file of one of my deceased Clients by the name of WILLIAM ERNST, a Canadian citizen, who lived here in the UK for over two decades prior to his death. He died a few years ago.”

Our Financial institution (insurance department) has issued me a notice to provide the beneficiary to the Estate of His unclaimed life insurance masterpiece Fixed deposits of US$6.8 Million. By law, any unclaimed deposit proceeds that have been left with a “holder” without activity or contact for about ten years; the holder must transfer the unclaimed proceeds to the Treasury Division as unclaimed funds.”

I have made several inquiries to find any of his living relatives, with no success. I tracked his last name in a database, to see if l could find any of his immediate  family members, this has also proven unsuccessful.”

Well, you can probably guess the rest. Since I share the same last name, I am obviously one of his extended relatives, and the inheritor of this unclaimed money. “There is no risk involved; no litigation or order for a DNA test as I have worked out all modalities to complete the process successfully. I shall use the services of a notary here for the purpose of procuring a letter of probate and relevant documents for approval.”

His email address is, because you know, all professional barristers use that as opposed to their own corporation’s email server.

At nearly the same time, I got a phone call from the CRA telling me there was a refund pending from the CRA, but I had to send them my information to claim the refund.

And then I got this email from PNG”

“Dear valued customer,

“At Pacific Northern Gas we take the security of our customers seriously.

“We have recently been notified of a potential phone phishing scam attempted by an outside party to gain credit card and/or bank account information from Pacific Northern Gas customers. Please be advised that Pacific Northern Gas does not use automated communications as a way to notify our customers of overdue balances owing on accounts. Under no circumstance will Pacific Northern Gas request your personal credit card or bank account information by automated outbound call.

“In the event we need to contact you in regards to your account we will do so by mail, email or you will receive a call from one of our Customer Service Representatives, between 9:00am and 4:00pm PST Monday to Friday.

“If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 1-800-667-2297 or”

Scams appear to be on the rise. But as always, there is an easy way to deal with them. If someone approaches you for anything, view it with the highest suspicion.

“Psst, buddy, want to buy a watch?” “Could you donate to the Heart and Lung foundation?” “Your computer is acting up, give us your credit card info and we’ll fix it for you.” “I am a Nigerian Prince…” If what they say does seem valid (say, someone asks for a donation for a worthy cause), then all you need to find the official channel and contact them back.

Let’s say you get a call from the Heart and Stroke foundation. You want to contribute, but you don’t know that the person on the phone is really who they say they are. Thank them for their call, then hang up and go to the official website (, where you will find a link called DONATE on the bottom of the page, where you’ll find out how you can donate once, monthly, in honour of a loved one or in memory of someone. You’ll also find their phone number, a printable form so you can mail in a donation, and a list of HSF offices where you could donate in person.

People want to trust other people, but a modicum of caution is also needed, especially in this day and age where all the crooks, thieves, scammers and grifters from around the entire world now can contact you online or using a computer to phone program.