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Here is the scheme.

  1. The identity thief logs in as my American friend in the instant messaging program QQ. (Did he steal her password or use some other exploit? I don't know.)

  2. The thief contact's my friend's Chinese mother and says that 'her' friend in China needs money for hospital bills. The thief claims that 'her' phone has fallen in water so the mother cannot call her daughter.

  3. The fake daughter puts the mother in contact with the 'injured friend' (really the thief). They chat in Chinese for a while, until she agrees to send the money.

  4. The mother sends the maximum allowable amount by Western Union Transfer but becomes suspicious when when the thief asks for even more money.

I know that it is a long shot, but is there anything that I could do to try and find the scammer's identity? Are there any mistakes he may have made that would help me to identify him?

The Police in China have already been notified, but the enforcement on these sorts of crimes is notoriously bad in China. I want to at least make at attempt to track down this guy.

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Your most reliable trail to follow is typically the money. –  tylerl Jan 12 '13 at 7:59
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2 Answers

I would send an insignificant amount like $100 using Western Union and state on the form that you send the money with that the person picking the cash up needs to present an ID.

Then the bad guy will either present an ID or the funds will remain there for your friend in China to pick up at a later date.

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There has been some success by people in trying to 'con the con-artists' into giving away vital pieces of information about where they are who they are. Depending on the legality of it, you could try and get them to execute a trojan on their PC (while playing along with their Con) and see if you can't get some information that way. It obviously isn't guaranteed to work, but maybe you can activate their webcam, get their personal information through Facebook or something.

If it all goes well, you can then potentially take that information to the police.

You might need to consult a lawyer first to see if this is legal in your country. I'm quite certain that in Australia this would not be allowed.

Please let us know how it works out for you and if the scammer is ever caught.

Hope that helps.

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