Charity Begins at….. Russia?

I’ve just woken up and logged into my email to find a Russian guy basically begging for money.

Is this a scam?

Russian-charity

On the surface it looks like it may be someone who is just in dire straits hoping that someone will help him out. In fact, for all I know, that may actually be true.

However, what is interesting, is the fact that he has sent this email to “undisclosed recipients”.

This suggests more than one person has logged in to find this email today and also that it was sent by a bulk mailer.

Hmmm… what is a poor Russian boy doing with an email list and a bulk mailer I wonder?

Anyway, without further ado, here is the mail he sent me –

Dear Friend,

Please excuse me for this letter.

My name is Valentin. I’m student and I live with my mother in a small town Kaluga, Russia. My mother cannot see and she receive pension very rare which is not enought even for medications.

I work very hard every day to be able to buy necessities for my mother, but my salary is very small, because my studies still not finished.

Due to deep crisis authorities stoped gas in our district and now we cannot heat our home. I don’t know what to do because the winter is coming and the temperature becomes colder each day.

I am very afraid that the temperature inside our home will become very cold and we will not be able to survive.

Therefore I finded several e-mail addresses and thank to the free internet access in our local library I decided to appeal to you with prayer in my heart for small help.

If you have any old sleping bag, warm blanket, warm clothes and shoes, medicines from cold, I will be very grateful to you if you could send it to our postal address which is:

Valentin Mikhayline,
Ryileeva, 6-45.
Kaluga. 248000,
Russia.

If you think that it would be better or easier for you to help with some money, please write me back to my email valem@nextmail.ru and I will write you how to send it safely, if you agree. In this case I will be able to buy a portable stove and heat our home during the winter.

I hope to hear from you very soon and I pray that you can help us. I also hope very much that this hard situation will become better in our region very soon.

From all my heart I wish you a Happy New Year 2007. I wish that the New Year will bring hapiness in your family and all your dreams come true.

Valentin and my mother Elena.
Kaluga. Russia.
E-mail: valem@nextmail.ru

The fact that he starts off by asking for sleeping bags or warm blankets kind of makes you feel like he is genuine.

However do note that he thinks sending money would be easier!

Incidentally, I work with a Russian girl – Nataliyia – and I remember from previous conversations with her that internet access is still extremely rare across most of her country.

Even in the current political climate there it is unlikely that someone would be able to go to a library and have access to an anonymous mail service such that mail.ru is.

Add to that the fact that a bulk emailer is almost certainly being used and you have to start asking questions!

I’m tempted now to use a vague email address to engage this guy in conversation to see where it goes.

If I do I’ll be sure to report back!

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. Ohh thank god..I just received an email from Elena and I google about her because I’m afraid its a scam..

  2. So I just received a email from Elena asking for a cast iron stove. What’s up with these emails?

  3. I also received already a few times news from elena. I know a person who lost thousands of euros in because of such scammers. Why don’t you report it to Interpol?
    You can check out their site and leave a report. I did it just now……see what happens.

    What we can conclude from all these ‘letters’ … it is clear that this ‘elena-crew’ seems to be quite a big organised network. Let’s try and break ’em down!

  4. I just received the mail from Elena yesterday…

  5. 2011… GLAD TO SEE ELENA IS STILL ALIVE AND EMAILING :)

    From: Elena [mailto:elenaret@karmail.ru]
    Sent: Tuesday, 4 January, 2011 3:42 AM
    To: casefrt@hotmail.com
    Subject: Happy New Year

    Hi,

    My name is Elena, I have 34 years and writing to you from Russia.

    I work in a city library and after my work allows me to use the computer if possible.

    I found some addresses on the Internet and have decided to write a letter to you.

    I have a 9 year old daughter, his father left us and we live with my mother.
    Recently my mother lost his work because of the great crisis of our province, and now our situation is much more difficult.

    Electricite and gas are very expensive, and we can no longer afford to heat our home with them.

    We have winter and the days are getting colder every day.
    We do not know how to do, and we have many worries.
    The only way to heat our home is to use a portable stove to heat with burning wood. We have wood savings in our shed and this wood is able to heat our home all winter for us at no cost.

    Unfortunately we can not buy this portable stove in our local market because the value of this furnace is 8150 rubles, and for us (equival. of 280 dollars) are very expensive.

    I hope with my heart that it is possible for you to help our family.
    If you have any old portable wood burning stove, and if you do not use it already, We are very grateful if you can donate it for us and transport towards the furnace to us (we live in 200 kilometers. away from Moscow).
    These ovens are different, they are usually made of cast iron and weigh about 100 kg.

    I wish you a Happy New Year! I wish that the New Year will bring you hapiness and good health!

    Elena.

  6. I got one today as well, from Elena. (It was even translated to Norwegian, which she had used google translate and a dictionary to translate it to, apparently.) I figured it was scam, but I thought I’d google it to see how wide-spread it was — I find it really interesting that this has been going on for so many years with exactly the same text!

  7. Wakamatsu (Japan) says:

    I also received it.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: “Elena”
    To:
    Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2010 5:32 AM
    Subject: Letter to Japan

    Hello,

    My name is Elena, I have 33 years old and I am writing to you from a province in Russia.

    I work in library and after my job I allowed to use computer when possible. I found some addresses on the Internet, and I decided to write to you
    this letter.

    I have daughter 9 years old, her father left us, and we live with my mother.

    Due to the unbearable hot weather at this summer, almost all potatoes and Vegetables get dry in our garden.
    Many of the forests burned down. We had nothing to eat and we spended all our little savings to buy a few bags of
    potatoes for the coming winter (it’s terrible, because potatoes now became 2-3 times more expensive than last year).

    Due to crisis my mother lost job and our situation become very difficult. The only help we receive from
    our authorities is relief for our child in size 300 Rubles per month (approx 7 Euro).

    Now we cannot afford to pay the bills for communal charges of our flat and we afraid that we can be evicted from the flat soon,
    since the debts will be more than 8000 Russian roubles (a little less than 200 EUR). It is a great amount and we don’t have it.
    After we can live and sleep at the shelter for homeless people, but for this reason we need sleeping bags.

    The winter is coming and weather becaming colder every day. I don’t know what to do and I hope you can help us.
    If you have any old sleeping bags, and if you do not use it anymore, we’ll be very grateful if you can donate it to us.

    Please let me know if you can help and I will write you our home address.

    Elena.

    P.S. I apologize for mistakes into this letter, I translated it with help of dictionary.

  8. Hmm the stove is getting more expensive by the year!

    Hi,

    My name is Elena, I have 33 years old and I am writing to you from a province in Russia.

    I work in the library and after my job I allowed to use the computer when possible. I found some addresses on the Internet, and I decided to write to you this letter.

    I have a daughter 9 years old, her father left us, and we live with my mother.

    Due to the unbearable hot weather this summer, almost all of the potatoes and Vegetables get dry in our garden.
    Many of the forest burned down. We were doomed to starvation, and we spent all our little savings to buy a few bags of potatoes for the coming winter (it’s terrible, because the price of potatoes now became 2-3 times more expensive than last year).

    Recently my mother lost job due to deep crisis in our region and now our situation become hopeless.

    Gas and electricity are very expensive, and we can not afford to heat our home amy more.

    The winter is coming and weather becaming colder every day. The only possible way to heat our home is to use portable stove that heating from burning wood. We have a wood-savings in our barn and this stove will heat our Home all winter for no cost to us.

    Unfortunately, we can not buy this stove in our local market because the value of this stove is 8.425 rubles, and it is very expensive for us (Equival. of 196 euros).

    I hope you can help us. If you have any old portable stove, and if you do not use it anymore, we’ll be very grateful if you can donate it to us and arrange transportation of the stove to us (we live 200 km from Moscow). This stoves are different, they are usually made of cast iron and weigh about 100 kg.

    Elena.

    P.S. I apologize for mistakes into this letter, I translated it with help of dictionary.
    Please answer in English language, because I studied it at school and I will understand you. Thank you very much…

  9. geoffrey swain says:

    I received the Elena wood stove scam e-mail in early October ’09, ejected it then went into it to flush out how they got my e-mail address. I have had two computers stolen in the last four years, suspects are workers from the eastern block ‘working’
    in Portugal. She has survived two Russian winters and looks fine and well fed in ‘her’ photograph. Maybe ‘Valentin’ is her ‘gone’
    boy friend plying the same trade…..from Geoffrey Swain, Portugal.

  10. I got the Elena one about two years ago (she called herself Olya then, but the text was identical) and I thought at first I would just ignore it. But then I thougt let’s scam the scammer. I had quite an interesting time with these emails, although a lot of times she didn’t answer any of my questions, just sent some standard texts with poems and nature descriptions. When she finally came up with her request for money, I said I would gladly send her some along with a good policefriend of mine who would be travelling to her town shortly on some other business. After that I never heard from her again. Even the email adress disappeared and the mailserver said it didn’t exist. By the way, I could trace the origin of these emails as far as Oregon, America of all places.

    So yes, this is a verified scam.
    (Nice looking pictures of her, although the woman in the pictures probably don’t even know they are being used for scamming)

  11. got one from “elena” today too…
    i suggest we send these guys iron cast stoves which they cannot use or sell… just pile them up in front of their homes or rather on them…
    : )

    i imagine though the postal address doesnt really exist..

  12. from Elena
    to elenaga@zumail.ru
    date Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 11:48 PM
    subject Hi

    Hello,

    My name is Elena, I have 32 years and I write you from Russian province. I work in library and I can use computer after my work when possible. I finded your address in internet while visited some sites and decided to write you this desperate letter.

    I have daughter – 8 years, her father abandoned us and we live with my mother.

    Due to financial crisis my mother lost job and our situation became very difficult.

    The prices for gas and electricity is very high in our region and we cannot use it to heating our home anymore.

    The winter is coming and weather becoming colder each day. We very afraid and we don’t know what to do.

    The only accessible way for us to heat our home is to use portable oven which work with burning wood. We have enough wood in our region and this oven will heat our home all winter for minimal charges.

    Unfortunately, we cannot buy such oven in our city because it price equivalent of 191 Euro and very expensive for us.

    If you have any old portable oven and in case you don’t use it anymore, we will be very grateful to you if you can donate it to us and organize transport of this oven to our address (200km from Moscow). This ovens are different, usually they made from cast iron.

    I will be waiting your answer.

    With deep respect from Russia,
    Elena and my family.

  13. I have received a same stuff. It looks like sent from Netherlands not from Russia (I have removed my own Email ):

    Received: from smtp-4.orange.nl (smtp-4.orange.nl [193.252.22.249])
    by ns.penguin.cz (Postfix) with ESMTP id B2482309797E
    for ; Sun, 16 Dec 2007 18:38:58 +0100 (CET)
    Received: from smtp-4.orange.nl (mwinf6306 [10.232.3.34])
    by mwinf6305.orange.nl (SMTP Server) with ESMTP id 82BFB1C0E991
    for ; Sun, 16 Dec 2007 18:33:04 +0100 (CET)
    Received: from me-wanadoo.net (localhost [127.0.0.1])
    by mwinf6306.orange.nl (SMTP Server) with ESMTP id 6D3E370000B5
    for ; Sun, 16 Dec 2007 18:33:04 +0100 (CET)
    Received: from cd44069d0.cable.wanadoo.nl (cd44069d0.cable.wanadoo.nl [212.64.105.208])
    by mwinf6306.orange.nl (SMTP Server) with SMTP id 2A016700009D;
    Sun, 16 Dec 2007 18:32:58 +0100 (CET)
    X-Me-Uuid: 20071216173300172.2A016700009D@mwinf6306. orange.nl

  14. luc (Belgium) says:

    A 100 % for sure : Valentin versus Elena is an ordinary gender problem … “a transsexual mugu”. His/her name is now “Velenatin” … I am waiting for the stove demand from “himher” … :-)
    ps. for “mugu” -> see : 419 Nigerian scams
    Luc

  15. I received the very same email today.

    • I’ve had a couple of emails from others who have received this one recently. Looks like whoever is behind it has recycled it again.

  16. I’ve received the “woman-and-daughter” stuff. My mail server said: domain at eposta.ru does not designate permitted sender host. Eposta.ru is her mail server. However, the mail traveled a weird way: it was send from Austria to Sweden, then to me. So, maybe the woman is using some anonimizer, TOR, or just simply this was sent from Austria to a Swedish server because this is a scam.

    • I often receive emails from trusted people that have followed strange paths so I don’t think that’s anything more than just standard practice for email routing.

      However, this particular email certainly is a scam.

  17. I might have to reply to her and tell her that she doesn’t need a stove now as she coped last year and global warming should sort her out in the future 😀

  18. A year later, I have received the same email, making this very suspicious. Please see below from Elena — I suppose this is good news because she survived last winter without a stove…

    Received today —

    Hi,

    My name is Elena, I have 32 year and I live in Russian province. I work in a library and after my work I allowed to use computer when it possible.
    I finded your address in internet and I decided to write you this letter.

    I have 7-year daughter Angelina, her father abandoned us and we live with my mother.

    Due to the crisis in our country my mother lost job and our situation became very difficult.

    The price for heating our home is very high and we cannot afford it anymore.

    The winter is coming and weather become colder each day. We worry if the temperature will become very cold in our home, we don’t know how to survive.

    We need portable stove which give heat from burning wood. We have many wood in our region, but we cannot buy the stove in local market because it cost equivalent of 192 Euro and very expensive for us.
    If you have any old portable wood burning stove, I pray that you can donate it to us and organize transport of its to our address.
    We live 200km from Moscow (central part of Russia).
    This ovens are different, they made from cast iron and weight about 100-150kg.

    I hope to hear from you soon. From all my heart I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2009.

    Elena.

  19. There is another one of the same kind but by a woman asking for a stove (she even gives a link to a “photo” on which didn’t click). Again the internet access is from the library, there is mention of an old mother (and of a 6 year old daughter). A bit too suspicious really.

  20. i got this email too you find anything?

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