Oddball Scam

The e-mail that we received this week has scam written all over it.  The tell-tale signs include the Hotmail address of the sender, lack of e-mail signature, vague details about the actual project, grammar and punctuation mistakes, etc. We saw the red flags immediately, including some funny stuff, like the sender wanting us to print, bind and deliver thousands of pamphlets to Germany -- hilarious, right? Here's the e-mail:


My name is Charles B whittaker, an executive Managing Director and the Western Region Leader at Frank Crystal & Company. I got a contract, in which I am needing help in translation. The project is about translating the attached document I sent you to a Germany language, print them out in thousands of copies, bind them in form of pamphlets and to deliver them to our company in Germany I will need your help in the translation. Please, let me know how this will work out, and email me the total price we are paying you for the translation. I want you to know as well, we are needing the assignment done on or before August 20th. I attached the document, sent to you in MS and PDF files. Please, kindly acknowledge my proposal, and get back to me as soon as possible. 

Sincerely, Charles.

We dug a bit deeper. The company Charles claims to work for, Frank Crystal & Company, does indeed exist, and we bet they are not happy that their company name is being used in this way. They are an important insurance brokerage firm in the U.S. While one can never be 100% sure that a scam is a scam until one has actually been scammed, we'll go out on a limb (not really) and say this is a scam. However, how is it a scam? Is it the classic scam where they will assign the project, offer to pay ahead of time, then send too much money and ask for us to wire the difference back (that's an old one, and turns out the initial wire was not legit)?

We took a quick look at the attachment (always dangerous), and a Google search with the first paragraph of the text yielded what we expected: the text was taken, verbatim, from this website.  It is crystal-clear to us that this is a hilarious scam, but we are puzzled as to how this scam could potentially work for the scammers.

Any ideas, readers? Have you heard about this one? We'd love to hear from you.


Charlie Bavington on July 5, 2011 at 6:49 AM said...


I don't think he wants you to do all that printing and sending stuff. That section describes the whole project. It then says he wants you to do the translation, the way I read it, in which case, it's just your bog standard over-payment scam in some shape or form, I think.

FWIW, Charles Whittaker of FC is on LinkedIn, you could always warn him, I guess.

Yours helpfully (I hope)

Esther Scholte-Patterson on July 5, 2011 at 10:41 AM said...

I received this email as well and, like you, immediately thought it was a scam. Although I wasn't brave enough to open the attachments, it was an amusing read. What about "a Germany language"? I wonder which one of the many they mean... But if you're going to send out a scam, at least check your grammar, please. :-)

Thomas Bosch on July 5, 2011 at 11:36 AM said...

I received two e-mails from Charles. One from a hotmail account, the other from yahoo. I am pretty certain this is a check overpayment scam.

Thomas Bosch on July 5, 2011 at 11:37 AM said...

I received two e-mails from Charles. One from a hotmail account, the other from yahoo. I am pretty certain this is a check overpayment scam.

Shanon on July 5, 2011 at 11:38 AM said...

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Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 5, 2011 at 1:55 PM said...

@Charlie: ah, good point. It wasn't clear from Charles' e-mail whether he wanted us to do the printing and all that. Then again, if he didn't want us to do it, why mention it? Ah, that's right -- it's a scam! What's frightening is that the scammers are getting smart: they are even sending the "attachments" as they know that translators will ask for them. Thanks for letting us know that the real Charles is on LinkedIn. We will shoot him a message for sure. I bet he won't be amused.

@Esther: very true, but at least we can easily detect the scammers by the grammar mistakes. It's a nice little help for us, isn't it?

@Unkown: you are probably right. However, the overpayment scam is so old at this point, and Charles never mentioned payment (yet). We wonder if there's something else to the scam that we are missing. Thanks for commenting!

Monika Johnson said...

I received the email yesterday. I called Frank Crystal & Company and asked for Charles Whittaker. They gave me his number in California (415-946-7520) and he seems to exist. Whether he wants this bizarre project done and how legitimate it is....I have no idea. I also send a message to the IT guy of Frank Crystal & Company (who responded last night) to see if this is a scam. The IT guy is Curtis Howell. I am curious and will see this through until I actually SPEAK to someone and don't just get ridiculous emails.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 7, 2011 at 8:17 AM said...

@Monika: wow, you are really going the extra mile; how fantastic! Please do keep us posted on what happens. Our bet is that the real Charles Whittaker does not have a translation project, but we will let you report back! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Polish-Translator on July 14, 2011 at 10:51 AM said...

I received a similar request but for a different language. I asked him to him to provide the printing paper first. He hasn't wrote back.

e,rich on July 18, 2011 at 3:09 PM said...

I was also approached by "Charles B. Whittaker", by yahoo email, who claimed to be an Executive for the Western US of Frank Crystal Inc. but upon inquiry gave his domicile as Baltimore MD. This scammer is most likely living in the UK as he does not seem to realize that Baltimore is not a suburb of SF. And looking up the 3601 Bowers Ave. in Baltimore on Google Earth, it strikes me as a lower class rental apartment setting, not one where an executive would live. His command of English did not put him on executive level either. However, I decided to toy with the man up to receiving a check of $6500 of which I was to keep my translation fee of $900 plus $100 for my extra trouble in expediting MY check of $5500 (he suggested that in much more flowery terms!). The check was stamped in Lincoln, NE, and cost someone $18.30 for express mail. It was made out by what Charles said was his "employer" (I thought that was Frank Crystal Co.), a Charlene Abraham of Indianapolis IN, and the envelope indicates as sender a Debra White of Charles' Baltimore address, previously said by him to be his attorney with a East North PA address which Google Earth shows as an empty lot. Am I confused by now? No, I told the man that full clearance through the bank would take 7-10 days and that I could not send him anything until then. Poor guy came back and pleaded for at least $1000 to be wired now or he would lose the deal. Or did he mean his face?
- I tried to inform the real Mr. Whittaker of Frank Crystal that his identity is being misused, but unfortunately I did not get much help from that company. Amazing really.. or are there so many scams that nobody cares any longer?
Erich H.

Anonymous said...

I received the exact e-mail from Charles Whittaker, same request, same info about the project. We exchanged a few more e-mails and then he stopped responding. He offered to send me the payment before he received my translation. I thought that was very odd. He never wired me any money and I never sent him a translation. I wish there was a way to catch people like these.

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