Monday, February 2, 2009


Our inboxes are replete with spam. Here, I speak specifically about emails purporting to be from people willing to share fabulous sums of money inherited from someone who was diseased or diagnosed with a terminal illness. These people speak of fortunes in the order of millions stashed in forgotten accounts. Out of automated reflex, having been stung once, I have learned to check such messages and to click on SPAM. There seems, however, no end to the tricks up the sleeves of these modern-day thieves.
In this post, I explore this practice with reference to a message I received February 1, 2009. Please find the message in red below. Initially, I didn’t go the extent of suspecting the genuine nature of this invitation to partake in the activities of the World Youth Festival with themes worthy of the attention of the noblest among us. Quite the opposite, in fact, I felt flattered that the organizers of the World Youth Festival had thought about me to represent my country and to attend either as a person or a member of an NGO. I particularly felt in agreement with the goals of this cross-continental youth organization that is intent upon upon building a space based on ‘democracy, secularism, pluralism, equality and respect’ (translation mine). One part of me continued to think about making arrangements for the trip, and the other part of me started to reread this invitation in the direction of doubting its authenticity.
So now that you know about my misgivings, here is the message in its entirety.
Festival Mondial de la Jeunesse -
World Youth Festival
Londres- Maryland 2009
Maryland K0B5/ Londres GP-67

Objet : Invitation à Participer au Festival Mondial de la Jeunesse.
(Version française)
Thème: *** La valorisation des cultures
*** Lutte contre les Fléaux Sociaux ( Prostitution - VIH/SIDA Drogue )

L'Organisme Internationale USA ENGLAND AIDS SOCIETY dont le siège est au USA, pour sa cinquième Edition de rencontre entre organismes recherche des ONG, associations ou groupes de personnes ayant une fois assister, participer, animer, et oeuvrant dans la même direction que l'organisme pour participer à son Festival International qui se tiendra dans plusieurs options courant le Mois de Mars 2009. C'est dans le souci que ceux-ci valorisent ou mettent en application leur savoir faire que le festival aura lieu au USA et en ENGLAND .

Un Festival unique où toutes les associations et ONG sont les bienvenues, une formation est prévue sur les stratégies de la mise en place d'une STRUCTURE, assistance et suivie rapproché.

Londres et Maryland accueilleront le 5ème Festival Mondial de la
Culture auquel participeront plus de 1000 jeunes et organismes du monde entier avec la présence des grandes personnalités Politiques du monde. Le Festival est le seul espace de rencontre complètement conçu et animé par des organisations de jeunesse de tous les continents. Un espace fondé sur la démocratie, la laïcité, la pluralité, l'égalité et le respect. Un espace engagé, revendicatif, novateur, et constructif. Le Festival est une occasion unique pour les plates-formes régionales de jeunes et pour les organisations de tous les continents de partager leurs idées et projets. Les personnes désireuses d'assister ou participer avec leur groupe au Festival doivent contacter préalablement le DCC (Département de Communication du Comité) dont l'adresse est ci-dessous afin d'être inscrits sur la liste des membres de la délégation, veuillez aussi adresser une demande d'informations pour avoir tous les détails sur l'organisation du forum ainsi que les conditions à remplir pour y prendre part. Le festival est ouvert à toutes les associations et ONG et à toutes personnes etc.?de tous les pays. Pour avoir plus de renseignements sur ce festival, adreser nous votre demande d'information et de formulaire à l'adresse du Bureau d'Etudes suivante ci

Nous sommes à Londres pour le Recrutement des jeunes ou ONG desirant participer à ce festival.

Email: bureaufestival.canben@yahoo.com
Tel: (00) 44 703 596 8137
(Comité National Préparatoire)
Département Communication et Informations
Service Informations
CNP Festival Mondial de la jeunesse Franche collaboration.
L'ensemble du comité préparatoire.

Let me now proceed to a brief analysis of the message text and
1. This message was sent on February 1, 2009, a Sunday. Now it may be that an international, non-profit organization like the World Youth Festival is busy on a Sunday, all the more so as the date for this international organization is drawing near; after all, the Conference convenes in the month of March 2009; one and a half months or a maximum of two months leaves too little time to organize an international function of a magnitude of thousand invitees, hence the need for the organizing committee to work on Sunday. Well, maybe that’s no problem.
2. We have all heard of the Olympic games being organized in two countries by way of being more inclusive. The message above states that the Conference takes place concurrently in London, England and in Maryland, USA. I find this somewhat suspect, though I don’t necessarily dismiss it as a ploy.
3. Look now, if you will, at the sender’s email address: bureaufestival.canben@yahoo.com. I find it strange that an international NGO, like World Youth Forum, and the USA-England AIDS society do not have a .org or .net email extension. If anything, I would have thought they should not depend on Yahoo! for an email address. I am a regular citizen and a physical person, and Yahoo! is almost a default email address for me. For an international organization, people expect a more clearly-recognized affiliation.
4. I googled ‘World Youth Festival’. The now defunct ‘World Youth Festival’ was active during the Soviet era, and understandably doesn’t have any event scheduled for 2009-2010. There is however another one: the UNESCO Word Youth Festival, to take place in July, 2009, neither in London, UK nor Maryland, USA, but in Stuttgart, Germany.
5. What I did next was to google the address itself: bureaufestival.canben@yahoo.com. I found the same message with the same information about the same conference from the same sender with the same theme, and it purportedly took place concurrently in Canada and Benin in the 2008-2009 session. The only difference this time is that instead of a yahoo.fr extension, the Canada Benin event had a yahoo.com extension. Please see this URL: http://lists.debian.ch/community@lists.debian.ch/2008/msg01340.html
6. In the midst of this investigation, I definitely realize this is a hoax. I will add the following indication though: please look at the physical address postcode: Maryland K0B5, for the USA address and Londres GP-67. Of course, no such zip are used either in the USA or in England. The English address should not refer to ‘London’ as 'Londres' either. The British postmaster may send such a message back to sender (LOL).
7. Look further into one of the organizers of the Conference: USA ENGLAND AIDS SOCIETY. A Google search reveals no such society, though there is one by the name of the AIDS society USA, and AIDS society, Canada.
8. Over and beyond these indications, there are of course errors of grammar and spelling in the French text. I can tolerate these errors on the part of a regular citizen, but not on the part of an international organization, unless this organization is using a free software programme to do the translation, and even then… Look at these errors:
  • a. '…associations ou groupes de personnes ayant une fois assister, participer, animer'. The three underlined verbs here have to be in the past participle form, and not in the infinitive form.
  • b. … Les personnes désireuses d'assister ou participer …doivent contacter préalablement le DCC …afin d'être inscrits. It seems to me ‘inscrits’ refers back to ‘personnes’ and so has to take on the feminine marker ‘inscrites’.
  • c. Pour avoir plus de renseignements sur ce festival, adreser nous votre demande…. ‘adresser’ of course takes double s in French : ‘adresser’.
It seems to me, having conducted this quick search and analysis that the email I sent them by way of further enquiry is unnecessary. I am glad I have engaged in this bit of outloud thinking and live writing as it were, but I promise to follow up on this if and when I receive an answer from them.


Conférence/Session2008/2009. A email thread. Retrieved from: http://lists.debian.ch/community@lists.debian.ch/2008/msg01340.html

Das UNESCO-Welt-Jugend-Festival 2009. Retrieved on February 2, 2009: http://www.unescofestival.com/

Wikipedia. World Festival of Youth and Students. Retrieved February 2, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Festival_of_Youth_and_Students


Max said...

thanks, received the same mail today and decided not to forward it to our TVET mailing list. Curious though I tried googling the conference just like you did and found your posting - which spares me from having to go through the same chain of thoughts - especially with my french not being as good as yours.

Ali H. Raddaoui said...

Good day, Max. Thanks for your response. There is, now, more than ever, a need to be vigilant; the promise of a extravagant sums seems to have lost its lure and cyber criminals must have felt the need to invent new strategies. Using noble causes could be their latest method to cheat regular, honest, people.

Max said...

Hello Ali,
I fully agree. And yes, they are quite creative in evoking "noble causes". Not quite as noble but very well done is this one, which 2 of my colleagues received yesterday and pondered for a while before asking me, unsure. It's so tempting to think that maybe indeed someone or some organisation wants to give us money for free:
From: European Commission [mailto:elsc06@bangor.ac.uk]
Sent: 02 February 2009 07:52
To: undisclosed-recipients

European Commission
Enterprise and Industry DG
Communication and Information Unit/R4 BREY 13/ 092
B - 1049 Brussels (Belgium)

Released: February 2009.

We bring to your notice the decision by the board of trustees of The European Union to choose you as one of the final recipients of a cash grant/donation for
your own personal, educational, and business development (SME funding).

To promote growth and creating new jobs in the European economy, we are giving out a yearly donation of £402,000.00 (four hundred and two thousand pounds) to 10 lucky recipients who have been selected from over 25,000 websites all over the globe, as funding/aid from the European Union, European Commission, and the United Nations in accordance with enabling acts of Parliament.

Please contact paying office (England)

Name: Dr. Dominic Brett
E-mail: sme.grants@live.co.uk

Remember to quote your identification numbers. Find your
identification numbers below:


Note that these numbers fall within your location file.

Thank you and accept my congratulations once again!

Janet Williamson
Information Officer and Coordinator,
Scottish European Resources Network

the information in this e-mail may be confidential and/or privileged.
If you are not the intended recipient or an authorized representative of the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination or

copying of this e-mail and its attachments, if any, or the information contained herein is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify the sender by return e-mail and delete this e-mail from your computer system. Thank you.

As it had been sent to undisclosed recipients I take it that the last paragraph has lost its validity...

willson said...

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Ali H. Raddaoui said...

Thank you for your kind words, Willson. To be sure, I did not write this post to maximize traffic or to get ranked high. As a human being I do not wish to fall prey to such hoaxes, nor do I wish other fellow human beings to be taken advantage of. On another occasion, someone laid their hands on my email address and sent a message from one particular country telling people on my contact list that he/I was stranded and that he/I needed just enough money to buy a ticket home. Surely, many people thought there was something fishy about this. One person fell into this trap and sent some money. He is a young relative of mine. Of course, we could never recover the money, but both events represent teachable moments for all of us.

Thank you for reaction.
Ali H. Raddaoui