If you ever get an email from a Mark Pil (mark_pil@yahoo.com) you can rest assured it’s going to be a SCAM.

Mark Pil (or Mr Nigerian Scam guy) sent me a wedding video inquiry which at first had me fooled.

Like most of my online wedding video inquiries, the following message was sent via the form on my wedding videos contact page.

“Hi, This is Mark,i will like to book you for my son wedding video can you let me know if you are available on 13th july 2012 and do you also accept credit card payment too. Notice: what area do you serve too,Thanks.”

Obviously very poor English and hopeless grammar, but it looked innocent enough to me so I replied with details about my prices and packages.

A couple of days later I receive the following email (it’s worth noting at this point that Gmail had in fact flagged this message as suspect by providing a nice red notice at the top of the email – but I figured this was a false alarm).

“Hi, Am hearing impaired that is why am using via e-mail to contact you now and can you give the prices range and details for your service package then i will give you my credit card to charge $800 as deposit fees too. I will be expecting your reply back asap,thanks.”

Oh Mark is deaf. Ok, so I can’t call him.

I did start to wonder what was going on because ‘Mark’ asked for my prices range and details which was information that I had already forwarded to him in my original reply.

Giving ‘Mark’ the benefit of the doubt, I replied with another email and forwarded my wedding video packages information again. I also asked for the wedding location and the names of the bride and groom.

A few days later I received the following.

“Okay,this is the info below: Reception Location: 249 Turbot Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
Bride Name: Jane cole
Groom Name: Peter pilger
I want the $1000 service package,are you ready for my credit card now to charge the deposit fees and i also want you to do me a favor too. Thanks.”

‘I want you to do me a favor’ … yeh I don’t know about that.

I gave weight to the fact that the reception address was legit and so I again clicked ‘ignore’ on the red alert that Gmail had placed so obviously at the top of the email.

I then logged into my PayPal account and proceeded to create and send an invoice to Mark Pil (mark_pil@yahoo.com).

Score 1 to the scammer who now has my name, address and phone number thanks to this information being included on the invoice – I got played.

A few days passed and then I receive the following email.

“Okay fine,the favor is that i want you to help me to charge extra $1400 on my credit card and you can help me to send it to the wedding limousine car.

So that they can come to your office to pick you up to my son reception on the wedding day because i want to used it to surprise my son on the wedding with her bride,limousine prices is $1700 dollars and have pay them the sum of $300 for deposit of the limousine service car and they want the remaining balance before the wedding date so that they can have the wedding car ready and i don’t have cash now with me and they also don’t have credit card facility they only accept upfront cash payment for their service,so that you can help me to bill my credit card for your video service with the wedding limousine car remaining balance too and send it through via western union money transfer.

You can locate a western union money transfer outlet nearest your place am asking for this favor due to my disability and am at the hospital will undergo surgery in 1 week time that why am asking for the favor….I will be expecting your reply back with your full name, address with directly phone numbers to locate your place when they are coming to pick you up on the wedding day,thanks.”

As soon as I saw Western Union mentioned, I knew this was undoubtedly a scam.

Of course there were plenty of other obvious signs of scam in this message too, such as:

  • a limousine service that doesn’t accept credit cards?
  • excuses to remain anonymous i.e. deaf and about to go into hospital

I finally Google’d the email address mark_pil@yahoo.com and instantly found confirmation of my suspicions.

The first result was ‘Nigerian scammers target weddings‘ and there was Mark Pil and his email address.

I have cancelled the PayPal invoice and have obviously not continued with any further correspondence.

The concerning thing is knowing that even though this scammer requests my name, address and phone number in his most recent email, he actually already has that info thanks to the PayPal invoice I had previously sent.

But I don’t know what he could do with that information however other than either call me or post me a letter?

I guess had I not realized I was being scammed at this point and continued corresponding with ‘Mark’, he would have eventually forwarded me more ‘instructions’ with regards to transferring money via Western Union and the scam would just about be complete.

Exactly how the scam was going to unfold however, or what the point of it all is, well I’m not sure.

There is a discussion here about the purpose of this scam being to skim money from stolen credit cards – and by undertaking this favor to help “pay” another “company” (as that company does not accept credit cards) I would possibly be getting a small cash amount for doing so.

I like to think I’m rather savvy to the ways of scammers but this one fooled me a few times until I finally realized this wedding video inquiry was far from genuine.

Google is your friend

Anytime you read something that just doesn’t seem right, I highly recommend Googling the email address and/or parts of the message you received.