When ne’er-do-wells hacked Vice President Mike Pence – who at the time was Gov. Mike Pence – it probably wasn’t political information or the secret to managing his beautiful white mane they were after.
It was cold, hard cash.
Pence’s personal AOL email account fell victim last summer to hackers who pulled the old Philippines scam, posing as the soon-to-be VP and asking acquaintances to wire money to the Philippines were he and his wife were “stranded.”
In 2013, I wrote about my own brush with the hustle. Someone named Judy – who, to my knowledge, was not a governor, though only time will tell about her vice presidency – emailed me an urgent plea for money after being “robbed at gunpoint” on the mean streets of Manila.
Our increasingly ridiculous email correspondence went on for days until I informed her that “ when I went to my uncle’s goat farm today to borrow his motorbike for the journey to the Western Union office, he asked me why I needed it and I told him of your unfortunate circumstances (without going into any intimate details about our past relationship). My uncle is a learned man, holding several advanced degrees in the areas of botany, animal husbandry and small-engine repair, so when he speaks, I listen. (He is also in the habit of slapping people who do not listen when he speaks.) He said sometimes people on the Internet pretend to be someone else in an effort to steal money. I was shocked to hear this. I was so shocked I fell over onto the electric fence surrounding his goat pen and was shocked again.”
Judy did not reply.
In 2016, it happened again, this time with poor Nancylynn emailing that she was trapped in the Philippines. I offered to help but there would be a short delay, I explained, because I was “currently on the road en route to the annual cockfighting tournament in New Mexico. Our rooster Diego is ranked fourth.”
Another scammer last year mistakenly believed I manage a restaurant and wanted me to cater for 150 guests at his mother’s birthday party, a ruse that experts say involves a stolen credit card and fees paid by the restaurant.
And here is one of the latest to hit my inbox, only slightly edited for readability.
From: Alexander Markov
Subject: urgent request
Dear Valued customer,
With regards to you and your company, I'm Alexander Markov I'm dearly in need of Gildan Tee Shirts 50/50 Cotton ,800 pcs Medium plain white T shirt for a Church program and was told your company can be of assistance to me make this purchase.
Kindly email me back here with the sales price in order to proceed with the order. Hope my request will be given its much needed attention.
The website for Kind Screen, professional screen printers, explains the scam “ uses stolen credit cards and the purchase is commonly not caught until the shirts have already been shipped and by that point you will be out of the product and left to deal with a hefty charge back loss.”
Still, I could not help but play along, sending this back to Alexander on his request for 800 tees for a “Church program” as well decal suggestions:
Alexander: Good to hear from you. We can provide yourself with an order of 800 of our most greatest T shirts in the color of white with your choice of attractive emblem, either a winged devil-beast, a simple pentagram or our most popular Party Naked Myrtle Beach 1986 for $4 U.S. American per shirt or $3,200 total which includes shipping and handling plus additional handling if necessary.
Assistant Customer Service Technical Assistant
Alas, there was no transaction.
So, if the vice president emails you that he is stuck in the Philippines, wants you to cater his mom’s birthday party or needs 800 t-shirts for a church program, it is probably a scam.
Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.