"Celebrating Stephen Hawking" with a 419 scam

“Celebrating Stephen Hawking” with a 419 scam

The recently departed Stephen Hawking is apparently back from the dead, now a target for scammers wanting to extract some quick cash from the unwary in the form of a vaguely surreal 419 scam.

The whole thing begins with an email from, er, Stephen Hawking titled “Celebrating Stephen Hawking.”

hawking mail

Click to enlarge

The body text is a slightly mangled swipe job from this AP article over on NYTimes, explaining Hawking’s health condition, a potted biography, and a mention of his famous book, A Brief History of Time. At this point, you may be wondering what the point of this missive is—it appears to be some sort of peculiar In Memoriam-style infodump, with nothing particularly sinister going on.

However, it quickly becomes a little more interesting with this next section of content:

hawking mail second part

Click to enlarge

Celebrating Hawking of his late on age 76yrs. Awarding to a Person whom answer these questions about Stephen Hawking will be Rewarded with Sum of $8 Million Dollars


(A) Who is Stephen Hawking wife? (B) Where is Stephen Hawking from? (C) Who is Stephen Hawking?

That’s right. Answer some questions about Stephen Hawking, and win a cash prize—a very large one, in fact, to the tune of a cool $8 million. If you’re thinking something along the lines of, “This is too good to be true,” you most definitely would be onto something.

The email links to a Verge article it says will provide the answers to the three questions. Amazingly, not only are the scammers seemingly willing to provide the answers to this impromptu quiz, but they’re also not providing the answers, because the article does no such thing. So a round of applause for our fake email friend for making me read something needlessly.

It goes on:

Notice: These three question will lead you to Eight Millions Dollars Cash.


(A) (B) (C)

To E-mail:

Be reminded $8m Awaiting to your winning answer of these question.

Your’s Faithfully Science Space

Thanks, “Science Space,” if that really is your name (because Stephen Hawking certainly isn’t). They will, of course, go on to call themselves “Scientist Space” a little later on in the mail chain because accuracy and consistency don’t appear to be a concern for our Hawking-themed scammers. Bad for them, and good for us, as you now have a few more peculiar aliases to add to the pile of “This is most definitely the fakest thing I’ve seen since last Wednesday.”

Anyway, I sent them a pile of deliberately incorrect answers to see if they actually would refuse to offer me the fake $8 million, or if the questions were utterly meaningless. Imagine my surprise to find that they really wanted me to jump through some research hoops, and were quite happy to send me an answer to get me started:

hawking reply

Click to enlarge

Oops Accurate answers Request…….. ….

Your Answers is incorrect.

Example Number One A) Stephen William Hawking wife, her Name is……… Jane Beryl Hawking

You still have a chance to win to an accurate answers to the left of the (2) questions

Terms Scientist Space

Yes, they’re just straight up giving me the answers, and now I had to do some digging of my own. I sent a reply answering 2 and 3, and…

i'm a hawking winner

Click to enlarge

…………You Just won $8 Million Dollars Portfolio,………

Your Winning is ready to Claimed. As it’s your readiness of Claiming your portfolio $8M will need your following information to your Claimed

Your Name………………. Address………………….. Cell Phone……………… Age………………. Height…….. Width………. A copy of Gorv issue ID Card if any.

This is a hug money that will change your entirely life to your future generation. Good-luck to your family will never surfer again bringing it to you by Late Dr Stephen William Hawking. to your answers Award winner.

Terms Scientist Space

Just like that, I’ve won $8 million. Hooray!

Except, not really. What I’ve actually won is a chance to lose all my money, and possibly become a money mule in the bargain. (Also, who asks for “width”?!) I’m afraid to say that neither Stephen Hawking nor anyone claiming to be representing him will be mailing you about cash prizes anytime soon.

This is just another poor attempt by scammers to make a quick buck off the name of a famous, recently deceased individual. Utterly reprehensible, and entirely fraudulent. Should you receive a mail along the lines of the above, report it, then delete. You won’t land a cool 8 mil, but you will be doing your part to prevent someone else from falling for the same scam.

(Thanks to Tane Piper for sending this over.)


Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.