E-mail Scams Target Cambodians Looking for Opportunity

When Mentha Buth received an e-mail message from a job re­cruitment Web site in the US, he was a little excited, but also a little skeptical.

It wouldn’t take him long to dis­cov­er that, while this company was promising a lot, it was also ask­­ing for too much up front in re­turn. Mentha Buth decided to for­go sending the $1,130 requested by the company in order to pro­cess what he feels were bogus vi­sa fees.

“I wasn’t sure,” Mentha Buth said of his recent run-in with one of Cambodia’s seemingly innumerable e-mail confidence games.

It’s easy to trash an e-mail from a self-proclaimed lawyer of the wife of the late Nigerian head of state who needs the participation of just one helpful foreigner to spring a $500 million fortune. Or to delete that one from the personal assistant to the deceased—of course—head of state of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or any of the other sons, wives, aides, attorneys or otherwise who have some great way to unlock easy money.

What was different about the pitch to Mentha Buth was that it was targeted at Cambodians, dangling a reward that few Cambo­dians would pass up, or at least fail to check out: A high-paying job and a visa to the US. And to enough people, that hope may be worth a $1,130 gamble.

After taking the initial bite on the off-chance that the agency might be for real—they had a Web site, didn’t they?—Mentha Buth soon found himself with the apparent opportunity to make $54,000 plus health benefits, a US visa and free Eng­lish lessons in the US.

The company said it had found him a position with another company called Urasia Trading Co, which has—according to the ac­companying e-mail—an annual sales volume of $1.6 billion and a de­sire to expand its operations to Southeast Asian countries, inclu­ding, apparently, Cambodia.

“We are able to offer below job [sic] as traveling and accounting co-ordinator, and if you want, you can get it now,” a man identifying himself as John Williams wrote. “We offered this position to another Cambodina [sic], but didn’t work out [sic].”

It was tempting, but Mentha Buth balked at the $1,130 visa pro­cessing fee. He asked for more information.

The recruiters quickly replied that if he could not afford it, Men­tha Buth would only have to pay half.

Mentha Buth queried again.

Little information returned: “There is not much time left to close this position, so your urgent and fast response will be greatly appreciated,” John Williams wrote.

After several more correspondences, this John Williams said only 25 percent would be necessary, and that it was all refundable anyway. He urged Mentha Buth to hurry.

Mentha Buth passed. He told his disappointed coworkers, many of whom had sent their own first replies off to the company, that he would not risk the money.

And he was right.

No foreigner can obtain a US visa through a third-party company. “That’s no longer possible,” said a spokesman for the US Embassy who asked not to be iden­tified. “It is not possible for anyone to act now as an intermediary between an individual and a consulate.”

Not having seen the series of e-mail exchanges between Mentha Buth and the recruiting company, the official would not comment di­rectly on the chances of its au­then­ticity. But if the recruitment company offered to take care of the US visa “for a fee,” it was most likely untrue.

“If someone proposed to do so …it must be fraudulent.”

So, a word to the wise: As more and more Cambodians gain ac­cess to the Internet, fraudulent pro­mises like this are bound to persist.

Only you and a consulate can take care of visas, there are no such things as Nigerian billionaire princesses who need help, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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