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Hempology founder, Ted Smith, targeted in email scam

By Hempology | November 29, 2007

Victoria Times Colonist
November 24, 2007
Sandra McCulloch

E-mail scam targets capital pot advocate

A well-known Victoria pot advocate learned yesterday that someone was hitting up the contacts in his e-mail directory and scamming them for cash.

An e-mail that looked like it came from Ted Smith, organizer of weekly marijuana “smoke-ins” around the city, was sent early yesterday to thousands of Smith’s contacts, begging for cash to get him out of a sticky situation overseas.

“I’m pretty upset,” said Smith, a principal of International Hempology 101 Society, yesterday. “This is causing us all sorts of headaches, that’s for sure.”

The subject line read “I need your help urgently,” and the message indicated Smith was stuck in Nigeria, where he was attending one of three conferences. It said he had left his wallet in a taxi and needed $2,000 cash to pay hotel bills and travelling expenses.

“I need this help so much and on time because I am in a terrible and worried situation here,” said the message.

The e-mail said Smith would be thrown in jail if his bills were not paid, and promised repayment upon his return home. It asked recipients to send the money to Lagos, Nigeria, via Western Union, which doesn’t leave a paper trail and is popular with fraud artists.

But Smith is in Victoria, not Africa. Yesterday, he found himself deluged with phone calls from people asking about the e-mail, wondering if it was a hoax.

“I think I know what happened,” Smith said amid the flurry of calls. “One of the employees yesterday accidentally gave out our e-mail password when he shouldn’t have and now we’re being scammed. I’m having a hard time calling Gmail [e-mail service provider] because everyone else is calling me.

“Pretty much everyone would recognize it as a hoax right away.”

People should be wary of Internet-based messages asking for personal information such as secret access codes, said Sgt. John Price of Saanich police, who suggests checking fraud-related websites such as, and

“There are always scams cropping up,” said Price. “In this day and age, everybody should know they shouldn’t open up unsolicited e-mails anyway.

“I’ve received these types of scams at my work e-mail. If it’s unsolicited, delete it. If it’s a friend or a colleague, they’ll send you another one or they’ll phone you and say, ‘Hey, how come you didn’t respond to my e-mail?’”

Mayo McDonough of the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island said the number of e-mail scams is increasing — even the BBB was targeted by a “phishing” scam that went out looking like complaint notices. “Phishing” is when con artists attempt to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Smith’s contacts included “everybody we’ve e-mailed for years,” he said, estimating the number to be in the hundreds or even thousands.

The password was given in response to an e-mail that looked like a legitimate communication from the e-mail service provider Gmail.

“People should know there’s Gmail scam going on and you can’t trust what’s being sent out from Gmail,” said Smith, who has since requested that his e-mail account be shut down.

The stilted tone of the e-mail was a dead giveaway that it wasn’t legitimate, he said.

“One of my friends said ,’You write a lot better than that. I knew it wasn’t you for sure.’”

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