I received the following email this afternoon.
I’m sorry I didn’t inform anyone about me and my family short trip to Madrid, Spain. Unfortunately we were mugged at gunpoint, at the hotel park we checked into. Our cell phone, cash and credit card was stolen in the process and we immediately file a report to the Police, but they seems to be taking things too slow. Our flight leaves in few hrs from now and we need a quick loan to settle the hotel bills and our transport to the airport. I promise to reimburse immediately we arrive back home safely. Please get back to us asap.
At first, it makes a little sense since I know this friend lives with his / her family. But it looks somehow suspicious, because apparently this friend can write in Chinese. And Gmail also popped up a message warning that the content of this message is suspicious. But I couldn’t rule out the possibility that he / she was really needing my help. So I replied:
I would definitely like to help you. Just to check it’s really you. Could you tell me who discovered the zero-one law?
One may ask more advanced questions, like personal questions. But usually you will get a vague answer.
I’m glad you replied back and am appreciative for your concern. It was a horrible experience but glad we were not physically injured. To answer your question, zero-one law was discovered by Ron Fagin. The total amount we are needing is about $2000, that will cover all our expenses to settle the bills and extra to return home. We don’t have any money left on us right now. You can have the money transferred on my name from any western union money transfer office around you.
Here’s my Info,
My passport name is under: —- —-
Nearest western union address: Plaza de Santa Ana 14, 28012 Madrid, Spain.
Please get back to me with the transfer confirmation number#. I’ll standby near a computer to check back.
Obviously, they failed. It’s Kolmogorov! Meanwhile, I saw the status of this friend on Chinese Facebook. Both his / her gmail and Facebook were hacked. So I decided to play with these con men for a bit while.
Sorry. That’s the wrong answer. I would definitely send you the money if I can verify it’s you. But you really need to tell me the right answer. Please try again. You should know the right answer. Take your time.
They replied promptly.
Oh Sorry, it’s Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov.
That’s ridiculous! Who the hell can remember the middle name of Kolmogorov except Kolmogorov himself. So I replied politely with sarcasm.
Yes, that’s absolutely correct. Just one last question. You understand Chinese, right? Please tell me what’s the meaning of 你是骗子，我要报警 ? (Translation: you are a liar. I am going to call the police.)
I expected that they wouldn’t get back to me any more. But out of my expectation, they responded in Chinese!
它意味着你是愚蠢的不相信我在危险中。(Translation: It means you are stupid. Don’t believe I am in danger.)
This was astonishing. They even tried Google translate!
A quick reminder: there are several things you can do to protect your gmail or Facebook account before it’s too late. You can set up a strong password and use 2-step verification, though they might cause inconvenience sometimes.