Saturday, April 23, 2011

Grameen Foundation Imposter Scam

Years ago, I interviewed Muhammad Yunus after hearing about his work providing micro-loans for people in developing countries. His work began in Bangladesh with the founding of Grameen Bank and his example led to the founding of the Grameen Foundation in the United States, whose purpose is to follow Dr. Yunus' example by extending micro-loans to people in the Developing World. Other organizations have also created programs to extend microcredit to impoverished people, such as Kiva.


On April 11, 2011 I received this email, claiming to originate from the Grameen Foundation:
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AID NOTIFICATION
From: "Grameen Foundation" gcortes@itoiz.com.ar
To: undisclosed-recipients
Grameen Foundation'Head Office.
1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20005'
Toll Free: 1-888-764-3872
Fax: 1 202-628-3880
www.grameenfoundation.org
The Grameen Foundation would like to inform you that you have been chosen by the board of directors as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development in order to reduce the poverty rate in your Community. The Grameen Foundation was established 1976 by Professor Muhammad Yunus which stand as an individual organization conceived with the objective of human growth, educational, and community development.
To celebrate the new year 35th anniversary program, Grameen Foundation is giving out a yearly donation of 950,000.00 (Nine Hundred And Fifty Thousand Great Britain Pounds) to 10 lucky recipients by which At least 15% of the awarded funds should be used by you to develop a part of your environment. This is a yearly program which is a measure of universal development strategy. You are to contact Rosanna Ramos-Velita, Treasurer(www.grameenfoundation@qatar.io) with your PIN Number (GF.101) in order to redeem your Grant and get more information.
On behalf of the inventor of this great foundation Professor Muhammad Yunus and we the Board of directors of the Grameen Foundation kindly accept our warmest congratulations as you proceed with your project of changes.
Paul Maritz
Chair, Grameen Foundation.
Remembering my interview with Dr Yunus, I immediately recognized the name of the Foundation. I also knew right away that this was a scam. The Grameen Foundation is also aware of this scam, as you can see from this report on their website. The personal finance magazine from India MoneyLife also has an article on this scam.


Apparently, the scammers were feeling some heat from all the attention they were getting, which must have been considerable. Copies of the original scam letter were posted at 419Eater and TheScamBaiter forums, which must have sent a few scambaiters off to deal with the scammer.


Apparently, the heat was a bit too much for the scammer to take or their email account got shutdown and they changed their contact email address. Eight days after sending me the first letter, they sent a second


Aid Notification.
From: "Grameen Foundation" grant@grameenfoundation.org
To: undisclosed-recipients
Grameen Foundation'Head Office.
1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20005'
Toll Free: 1-888-764-3872
Fax: 1 202-628-3880
www.grameenfoundation.org
The Grameen Foundation would like to inform you that you have been chosen
by the board of directors as one of the final recipients of a cash
Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business
development in order to reduce the poverty rate in your Community. The
Grameen Foundation was established 1976 by Professor Muhammad Yunus which
stand as an individual organization conceived with the objective of human
growth, educational, and community development.
To celebrate the new year 35th anniversary program, Grameen Foundation is
giving out a yearly donation of 950,000.00 (Nine Hundred And Fifty
Thousand Great Britain Pounds) to 10 lucky recipients by which At least
15% of the awarded funds should be used by you to develop a part of your
environment. This is a yearly program which is a measure of universal
development strategy. You are to contact Rosanna Ramos-Velita,
Treasurer(www.grameenfoundation1@bitscn.net) with your PIN Number (GF.101)
in order to redeem your Grant and get more information.
On behalf of the inventor of this great foundation Professor Muhammad
Yunus and we the Board of directors of the Grameen Foundation kindly
accept our warmest congratulations as you proceed with your project of
changes.
Paul Maritz
Chair, Grameen Foundation.
The scammer apparently got smarter after sending out the first email. Notice how the sender's email address was changed from  gcortes@itoiz.com.ar (an email address based in Argentina) to grant@grameenfoundation.org, in order to appear to actually have been sent from Grameen's offices. Also, the words in the original Subject line were all capitalized (typical for scam letters), but were typed normally in the second.


Knowing that scammers utilize more than one email address while conducting their scams, I sent a reply to the email from one of my extra accounts to see what sort of reply I would get. I received this



You Are Welcome To The Grameen Foundation‏.
From: "Grameen Foundation" www.grameenfoundation1@bitscn.net
To:
Grameen Foundation'Head Office.
1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20005'
Toll Free: 1-888-764-3872
Fax: 1 202-628-3880
www.grameenfoundation.org
Good day to you’ I am Rosanna Ramos-Velita, Treasurer. At Grameen Foundation, our goal is simple – we want to see poor people, especially the poorest and those living in harder to reach areas, have access to micro-finance and technology and as a result of access to these services, move themselves out of poverty.  We envision a world where the poor have broken the generational chain of poverty and lead lives of respect, dignity and opportunity. Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit organization which was founded in 1997 by friends of Grameen Bank to help micro-finance practitioners and spread the Grameen philosophy worldwide. We are a leader in the fight against poverty in Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, Middle East/North Africa, and the Americas. Our cutting-edge programs and resources have helped millions of poor people, mostly women and children, improve their lives.Grant Donation  has been given out in different institution from various social standard   for years’ which was awarded by the foundation in their favour  and  the development of  their precise community.
Note that your country is not the only country that is benefiting from this donation. Beneficiaries have been chosen from countries from all continents. The idea of this donation is that within ten years from now, there will be notable richness among many unusual people around the world. This will give many people the opportunity to get their lives to a stage where they had always wanted also note that beneficiaries email addresses were selected randomly from over 100,000 internet websites and a shop's cash invoice around your area in which you might have purchased something from).
Based on the random selection exercise of internet websites and millions of supermarket cash invoices worldwide, you were selected among the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of £950,000.00 (Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Great Britain Pounds) as charity donations/aid.
Alliance & Leicester Bank Plc UK
Carlton Park, Narborough
Leicester, LE19 0AL
Phone:  +4470457 96435 and +4470111 96845
Website: www.alliance-leicester.co.uk
Email: webstephen@alliance-leicestter.co.uk
Your Grant has been forwarded to our payment bank for immediate release to you. You are required to contact our payment bank with your valid information (NAME, ADDRESS, OCCUPATION, AGE, SEX, and PHONE NUMBER) to the above address for qualification documentation and official processing of your claims.
Congratulation and God bless.
Rosanna Ramos-Velita, Treasurer' Grameen Foundation
If you didn't notice it, the scammer is using the name of a legitimate bank as a cover. That is the real website for the bank in the United Kingdom. However, notice that in the contact email address, there is an extra T added to the name "Leicester", so it is spelled "Leicestter". If a real bank was involved in a scam, it could cost them their license, so I don't think that Alliance Leicester has any involvement in this whatsoever. I sent a quick note to the reply address and received this

Thanks for Contacting The Alliance Leicester Bank plc®‏‏‏‏‏‏.
From: "Alliance Leicester Bank Plc" webstephen@alliance-leicestter.co.uk
To:
 
Alliance & Leicester
Alliance Leicester Bank plc® Transferring To The Santander Group
Customer Service Center
Carlton Park, Narborough
Leicester, LE19 0AL
.Enquiry for customer in the UK ? Call 0844 800 9000
Complaint? Call 0844 561 9790
.Enquiry for customers out side UK ? +4470457 96435
Complaint? Call +4470111 96845
ONWARD TRANSFER- £950,000.00 (Nine ight Hundred And Fifty Thousand Great Britain Pounds)
 
Qualification Numbers (L-222-6747)
This is to acknowledge the receipt of the order from the Grameen Foundation, in respect with the provision act of decree 114 of the 1999 constitution; I am directed to inform you that your payment verification and confirmations is correct. Therefore, we are happy to inform you that arrangements have been concluded to effect your payment immediately and we also thank you for contacting the Alliance & Leicester Bank in receipt of your email containing your contacts/personal information for processing of your Grameen Foundation Grant claims of £950,000.00 (Nine Hundred And Fifty Thousand Great Britain Pounds).
In view to this development you are here by invited to our bank head office in (Leicester UK) to claim your funds and get it registered with the (Bank of England) at the bellow address.
Alliance & Leicester Bank Plc UK
Carlton Park, Narborough              
Leicester, LE19 0AL
Phone:  ++4470457 96435 and +4470111 96845 
Website: www.alliance-leicester.co.uk
Email: webstephen@alliance-leicestter.co.uk
PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU ARE TO CHANGE YOUR PASS WORD TO YOUR MAIL BOX IN ORDER TO SAFE GUILD THE PROCESS OF THIS TRANSACTION.
Your prompt response to this mail is highly needed to avoid delay in concluding this transaction.
Yours faithfully,
Mr.Webster Stephen,
Customers Care Department
Alliance Leicester Bank (U.K) ®
Alliance & Leicester is now part of the Santander Group, one of the world's largest banks.

The individual who created alliance-leicestter.co.uk may be a resident of the United Kingdom, according to the website registration
Domain name:        alliance-leicestter.co.uk
    Registrant:        michael baxter
    Registrant type:        UK Individual
    Registrant's address:        27 little london        Towcester        01        NN12 8UP        United Kingdom
    Registrar:        Melbourne IT t/a Internet Names Worldwide [Tag = MELBOURNE-IT]        URL: http://www.melbourneit.com.au/contacts
    Relevant dates:        Registered on: 09-Oct-2010        Renewal date:  09-Oct-2012        Last updated:  09-Oct-2010
    Registration status:        Registered until renewal date.
    Name servers:        ns1.officelive.com        ns2.officelive.com
This could create serious legal problems for this person, if the registration information is accurate. Going back to the second scam letter I received, I decided to do a WHOIS search on bitscn.net

Domain name: bitscn.net
Registrant Contact:   Whois Privacy Protection Service   Whois Agent    +86.05922577888 fax: +86.05922577111   No. 61 Wanghai Road, Xiamen Software Park   xiamen fujian 361008   china
Administrative Contact:   Whois Agent    +86.05922577888 fax: +86.05922577111   No. 61 Wanghai Road, Xiamen Software Park   xiamen fujian 361008   china
Technical Contact:   Whois Agent    +86.05922577888 fax: +86.05922577111   No. 61 Wanghai Road, Xiamen Software Park   xiamen fujian 361008   china
Billing Contact:   Whois Agent    +86.05922577888 fax: +86.05922577111   No. 61 Wanghai Road, Xiamen Software Park   xiamen fujian 361008   china
DNS:ns1.4everdns.comns2.4everdns.com
Created: 2006-04-07Expires: 2012-04-07
This China-based site provides email services powered by Microsoft Live. Scammers operating out of China has used Microsoft services in the past, as did the scammer offering the Hawaiian Electric job I wrote about months ago. BITSCN does show-up on a list of sites not to be trusted, according to McAfee. The first email address from domain qatar.io is similar to this. However, the IP address for BITSCN is from China, while QATAR.IO is from San Diego, California. The QATAR.IO address was shutdown either by the scammer or by the domain itself, so I doubt if QATAR.IO is an accessory to the scam.


As far as IP addresses being used by the scammers, 

  1. The first scam letter came from Monte Grande, Argentina;
  2. The second scam letter came from Galdar, Spain;
  3. The third (received after my reply) came from Lagos, Nigeria;
  4. The fourth (claiming to come from Alliance-Leicester) also came from Lagos, Nigeria
I suspect that the first two letters were sent by members of a gang, possibly using proxies, while the leaders of the gang are based out of Nigeria.

Duane Browning

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