- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
Check your email. There is a Syrian banker who really needs your help.
My apologies writing you a surprise letter, My name is Mr .Anbouba issam from Damascus Syria."
In other words, there is a new online scam in town, and it’s pretty shameless. Written in the usual impeccable English grammar of online scams, with creative spelling and innovative capitalizations, a former Syrian "bank director" asks you to help him with some of his assets that had been frozen in a "foreign land." He later clarifies that this "foreign land" is the United Kingdom and, um, "Asia."
And then comes the only remotely grammatically correct sentence in the email (so probably copy-pasted from another source), which also, ironically, condemns "Mr. Anbouba issam’s" government: "The European Union imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after it violently suppressed anti-government protests killing thousands of innocent people." At least he’s owning up to it.
Syria has been ravaged by civil war since 2011 after the country’s President Bashar al-Assad indeed "violently suppressed anti-government protests." The estimated death toll in February was at least 140,000 and the conflict has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the region, with refugee camps overflowing and militants spreading into neighboring countries. The international community condemned the Assad regime for using chemical weapons on civilians and imposed multiple sanctions on the government.
"Mr. Anbouba issam’s" plea for "urgent action" is the newest iteration of the infamous "Nigerian scam" –also called the "419 scam" for the fraud section of the country’s criminal code — where a purported government official or "prince" offers millions to their "partner" (prey) for help with transferring funds out of the country. The practice actually dates back before the Internet era with the first "Nigerian scams" being sent out by snail mail and fax.
The fraudulent Syrian email also isn’t the first to be shamelessly leeching off a war zone. In the early days of the Afghanistan war, American Special Forces soldier "Bradon Curtis" wanted your help with moving a suitcase full of $36 million of terrorist drug cash out of Afghanistan.
During the Iraq war, in turn, "Sgt. Jennifer L–" found an astonishing amount of cash that belonged to Saddam Hussein’s family." Sgt. Jennifer was "being attacked by insurgents everyday and car bombs," so it would be very kind of you to help her to move the cash out of the country. "No strings attached," naturally.
At least the Afghanistan and Iraq scammers tried to appeal to their recipients’ patriotism. "Mr. Anbouda issam’s" tactics are unclear, to say the least.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Turtle Bay |