It used to be that we knew what to expect with email spams and scams: pharmaceuticals, offers of and improvements on sex, university degrees, security warnings from banks, money from Nigerian gentleman, replica goods and the like. But a new variation on a theme is now becoming more common. Rather than presuming our trust in banks it tries to play on our trust of lawyers, and of course our greed.

Yes, we’ve suddenly all become heirs to fortunes.

The example that brought this to my attention is from a Mr James Patton [presumed not real name, but a good choice]. He has recently emailed twice, though he claims thrice. Most amusingly in his latest missive he’s blaming the spam filter for my not seeing the last email (I did see it and it was auto filtered as spam, but as so little gets through I check that box every now and then out of interest).

There are plenty easy tell-tale elements that highlight his polite yet firm email as spam: it’s generic, email address isn’t a law firm and has numbers in it, no contact details… need I go on? So for your amusement, ‘Mr Patton’s’ outing and as a warning to others here is the email in full.

from: James Patton
date: Sat, Sep 4, 2010 at 1:33 AM
subject: {Spam?} 2ND NOTICE AGAIN


We wish to notify you again that you were listed as a Heir to the total sum of (Three Million Six Hundred Thousand British Pounds) in the codicil and last testament of our deceased client. Name now withheld since this is our second letter to you.

We are reaching you the second time because her instruction stipulates that this fund should be paid directly to you upon her death.

If you receive this notice, we request you to kindly acknowledge officially to enable us file in all necessary legal documents to the paying bank for the urgent release of your inheritance.

Please call urgently or send an acknowledgement email to enable us process your inheritance.

Yours Truly,

James Patton


  1. Thanks Kathryn, these spam and phishing emails are getting increasingly sophisticated. By contrast I had one the other day from THE HALLIFAX. It’s a worry that less savvy web users must so easily fall prey to these attempts at address verification or worse. As well as the clues you pointed out above, a common indicator that all is not as it should be is improper spelling and grammar:
    “If you receive this notice, we request you to kindly acknowledge officially to enable us file in all necessary…” is clearly not written by any native English professional… especially one so respectably named as Mr James Patton :-)

  2. A colleague of mine received one of these emails claiming she was heir to a large fortune where the deceased shared her surname. Whether this is pure coincidence or a reflection of the increased ‘sophistication’ of these scammers is unknown, but is sickening nonetheless.

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