Every so often I find myself dealing with a blog comment by someone claiming to offer a blank ATM card that can be used to hack any ATM to get an unlimited supply of free money. And every time I wonder whether I ought to blog about it, but it’s never seemed a high priority. After all, it’s pretty obvious that if such a thing actually existed, it couldn’t possibly be legal, could it? Even the scammers who offer it tend to admit that it’s illegal – one recent example tells me that it’s nevertheless untraceable, since it also stops the CCTV camera from ‘detecting’ you. It also lays golden eggs and predicts the winner of the Kentucky Derby. (I made that last bit up, but it doesn’t seem that much more far-fetched.)
So who cares if people who don’t have a problem with robbing banks get caught out by a scammer? Well, maybe some of the potential victims are desperate rather than intrinsically amoral.
It’s worth noting, maybe, that 419 scammers are often frank about the fraudulent nature of the transaction they’re proposing – without making it clear, of course, that it’s their ‘partner’ in crime who will be scammed, not the government or bank – but attempt to justify it by claiming that the money they’re offering would otherwise be misused by the organization from which it’s stolen. The perpetrators of this scam will sometimes make somewhat similar justifications – ‘because the government cannot help us so we have to help our self’ – and it’s often quite hard to feel much sympathy for a government agency or a bank… Of course, the illegality of the transaction does make it difficult for the victim to report it when they realize they’ve been scammed.
It’s sometimes assumed that this kind of scam is a 419 – I don’t know that this is always the case. They’re usually badly written, but not necessarily in the same stilted way that characterize so many 419s. Here’s an example of a blogger who found a scammer who certainly seems to be based in Nigeria, though.
Furthermore, after I first discussed this topic on a blog, I found a comment on the same blog (but posted to a totally different article, weirdly enough) that reassured me that this magical device does exist, but that…
‘due to so many scammers out there, you cant [sic] really tell who is real or fake. I was scammed by three different fake hackers from Nigerian hoodlums who claimed they do possess the card which they don’t.’
You might think that someone who’d been caught three times by the same con might have learned something from the experience, but this individual was persistent if not bright… He claims to have come across a blog to which I have no intention of directing you…
‘where about 25 people where thanking this hacker for changing their life with the blank card. Due to my past experience, i was nervous & scared of loosing more money but on the blog i saw an email of Mr. Kelvin who claimed he got this card so i contacted him and he gave me a %100 assurance that this people where real, reliable and trusted…& today i am amongst the people that gives testimony.. STAY AWAY FROM NIGERIA SCUMBAG.’
Well, I’m all in favour of staying away from scumbags, wherever they may be. However, one thing I did notice during years of 419-watching was that 419-ers would quite happily disown any connection with advance fee fraud and dishonest Nigerians while blatantly pushing exactly the same scam. I don’t know for sure where this particular ‘honest’ so-called hacking group is based, but when a scammer starts talking about dishonest Nigerians, I can’t help drawing my own conclusions.
So here’s the bad news (though it’s good news for those whose hard-earned cash helps to keep the banks afloat). There ain’t no such card. If you have a few hundred bucks to spend on something so improbable, there’s a scammer someone who’ll gladly relieve you of it and no doubt will feel quite justified in doing so.
An earlier version of this article was published on the Chainmailcheck blog: Scamming the would-be scammer
by David Harley, ESET Senior Research Fellow