"Hi, I hope you are not busy?"
The treasurer of the Icelandic soccer club Afturelding got the email from his manager late in the afternoon, soon before banks were about to close. The words "Sent from my iPhone" were at the bottom, suggesting urgency, and through a series of exchanges, the manager asked that a quick payment be made.
It was a scam, perpetrated from someone posing as the club manager - and part of a sudden rush of online fraud that is catching Icelanders unprepared.
Online apps have now become good at translating the country's complex language, a version of Old Norse spoken only by about 400,000 people. And the government has lifted limits on bank transfers out of the country. The combination over the past two years has attracted scammers to target a population that has not developed the same instincts of caution about online fraud as other such wealthy, high-tech countries.
"The trick is always the same, but the Icelandic gets better and better," said Audur Thorsteinsdóttir, manager of The Icelandic Youth Association, an umbrella organization regularly warning member clubs against fraud emails.
Large and small enterprises, from vehicle inspection companies to residents' associations, have been shaken this year by someone posing as the CEO or chairman seeking a swift payment. By using Google Translate or Microsoft's Translator - the two apps that can translate Icelandic - the criminals were able to sound credible, police say.
Known as "CEO fraud" - when criminals pose as high-ranking executives after thoroughly researching the company structure - the scams did not exist at Icelandic workplaces in the early days of online translators. Software offered poor, often comically inaccurate, results: Icelandic for "youth" for example, was translated as meaning "Youtube." The apps have since improved.
"The text has the kind of errors Google Translate makes," such as awkward capitalization and syntax, said police detective Dadi Gunnarsson. "But it reads remarkably well, and that fools many."
Recent scams have amounted to the largest thefts the island nation has ever seen. Geothermal energy company HS Orka recently lost $1.5 million and a total of $13 million has been lost to foreign scammers over the past twelve months, the police estimate.
In another case, a series of promoted ads on social media promised to explain how to bounce back from bankruptcy. The link brought users to a website mimicking a respected business paper, with its trademark pink background. It was a bitcoin scheme meant to defraud.
Icelandic was introduced to Google Translate in 2009, earlier than many other more widely spoken languages as a Reykjavík-born employee at the tech company wanted his mother tongue included as soon as possible. Dozens of students and faculty at Reykjavík University volunteered to help Google gather samples for voice recognition.
Still, the translations were incomplete and spotty for many years.
"The learning curve has been steep for Iceland," said Morten Tandle, director of the Nordic Financial Cert, a Norway-based organization coordinating cyber security responses between large companies in the region.
Experts say that as artificial intelligence improved, translation apps only really became good enough at Icelandic around 2018.
That was just months after the government removed limits on the amount of money that could be transferred out of the country that had been imposed since the financial crisis over a decade ago.
It was like foreign scammers had been waiting for the day, police said.
Cases of online fraud began piling up, with the number this year about six times higher than the year before, according to Landsbankinn, a large commercial bank. Victims rarely get their money back.
In most countries, Tandle said, people learn to be cautious online because someone around them has been scammed or hurt by messages with malicious software. The country's isolation from such trends until recently made its sudden exposure all the more painful.
The rule of thumb, experts advise, is to always respond to financial inquiries through a different medium, like replying to an email with a phone call.
Icelanders pride themselves on their sense of community and have one of the highest levels of "social trust" in surveys measuring people's belief in each other and in honesty and integrity.
"Social trust is the desired quality of every society," said Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a politics professor at the University of Iceland. "It makes the economy more dynamic, democracy stronger and people happier and healthier - in academic literature nothing bad is ever associated with healthy trust."
Yet police and cybersecurity experts note that online scammers successfully exploit it and are urging more caution.
"Digitalization of finance and public service needs to be followed by more awareness," said Jarno Limnéll, a professor in cybersecurity at the Aalto University in Finland. "We should approach the internet like driving: Always on the alert."
Kristján Ásgeirsson, a fishing industry entrepreneur known as Fiskikóngurinn, "the King of Fish," made a splash in local media recently speaking about the shame and distrust he felt after falling for a scam.
Ásgeirsson received an email from what appeared to be a trusted American business associate asking for the next invoice to be paid to a separate account for tax purposes. Someone had hacked Ásgeirsson's inbox and was posing as his contact under a false email address. He lost $68,000 and only discovered the scam weeks later.
"I felt like a complete idiot," Ásgeirsson said. "It can happen to everyone," he added, before pausing and revising his statement: "It is happening to everyone."
South Korea says it has decided to continue a 2016 military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan it previously decided to terminate amid ongoing disputes over their wartime history and trade.
The announcement by South Korea on Friday followed a strong U.S. push to save the pact, which has been a major symbol of the countries' three-way security cooperation in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat and China's growing influence.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in says it decided to suspend the effect of the three months' notice it gave in August to terminate the agreement, which was to expire on Saturday, after Tokyo agreed to reciprocal measures.
Lebanon's top politicians are attending a military parade on the country's 76th Independence Day.
They appeared together Friday for the first time since the government resigned amid nationwide protests.
Lebanon's president, parliament speaker and resigned prime minister sat together under a canopy at the Defense Ministry.
The traditional military parade in central Beirut has been called off as a protest camp still occupies the area, more than a month after anti-government demonstrations broke out.
The limited Independence Day display reflects the nation's somber mood.
Lebanon is facing its most serious political and economic crises in years. A deadlock among the top leaders has failed to produce a government.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned two weeks into the protests, which have targeted Lebanon's entire political class.
A Chinese Catholic priest whose demotion was key to a now-stalled effort at reconciliation between China and the Vatican is being pressured to join the official Communist Party-controlled church organization, a fellow priest and Catholic news source said.
Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin was one of two legitimate bishops who remain loyal to the pope who were asked last year by the Vatican to step aside. That was part of a controversial agreement that also called for the Holy See to recognize seven bishops who had been appointed by Beijing without papal consent.
Local government and religious affairs department officials, along with representatives from the ruling Communist Party's United Front Work Department, are visiting Guo regularly in an effort to persuade him to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the Rev. Peng Zhekang, a priest in Guo's diocese in the eastern province of Fujian, said by phone.
"They are not coming to look for trouble," Peng said of the visitors.
However, the Vatican-affiliated news agency AsiaNews said Guo was being "hounded by public security agents" to agree to join the patriotic association in return for government recognition of his religious status. It said Guo is under the constant supervision of two guards, and officials and agents arrive throughout the day seeking to change his mind.
"For months, the Fujian authorities have been exerting pressure, blackmailing and threatening priests to push them to sign this accession in exchange for government recognition without which their ministry is forbidden," AsiaNews said.
The agreement to give China some say over bishop appointments prompted accusations that the church was caving in to the Communist Party just as China's leaders are waging a sweeping crackdown on religion. It has also been denounced as a betrayal of underground clergy and their congregants who are often persecuted for their defiance of the state.
Others called it an imperfect but much-needed step toward uniting Catholics in the world's most populous country.
Various popes have long cherished the hope of bringing together China's 12 million Catholics who are divided between those worshipping in state-sanctioned churches and the underground priests and parishioners loyal to the pope, who are frequently detained and harassed.
China demanded Chinese Catholics cut ties with the Vatican shortly after the Communist seizure of power in 1949.
Pope Francis will pass through Chinese airspace Saturday as he travels from Bangkok to Tokyo, and plans to send a telegram to President and party leader Xi Jinping. That is the first opportunity to address the relationship between the sides following last year's agreement.
Peng, of Guo's parish in the city of Mindong, said the local church was in the process of merging its official and underground sides, but only about two-thirds of clergy were on board with the move.
"Those still resisting the merger believe the government's demand for a church independent from the Vatican has an impact on their beliefs," Peng said.
Due to that, Guo "feels he has the responsibility to stay behind to take care of them," Peng said.
Calls to Guo's cellphone were answered by a message saying it was invalid, while calls to the local police and religious affairs department rang unanswered.
Since the agreement was reached, China has given no public indication that it would offer greater freedoms for Catholics or yield more influence to the Vatican.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party has been tightening controls on all religions, especially Christianity and Islam, which are viewed as foreign imports and potential challengers to Communist authority.
Authorities have removed or demolished crosses from even officially sanctioned churches, shuttered churches, and in at least one township, replaced posters of Jesus Christ with portraits of President Xi in what is being called the harshest anti-religion campaign since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
Cathy Yau remembers the first time she was called a "dirty cop" by Hong Kong's anti-government protesters, days after police deployed tear gas to repel tens of thousands of black-clad demonstrators blocking the legislature.
The former officer, exasperated at the increasing use of force to quell the unrest, quit in July after 11 years.
Now she is among scores of new faces vying for office Sunday in citywide elections that have become a referendum on public support for the protests, which have disrupted life for more than five months.
"Some residents still call me a rogue cop but there are others who tell me to keep it up as they want a change this year," said the 36-year-old Yau, who faces a tough battle against an incumbent who has served the constituency for years.
The election for the 452 seats on the city's 18 district councils usually gets little attention but this year has shaped up as a pivotal battleground for protesters anxious to seize the ballot box to legitimize their cause.
For the first time, all the seats are contested in Hong Kong's only fully democratic elections. The pro-democracy opposition hopes to win a decisive victory on the back of public anger against the government and police.
"The election this time serves as a political barometer. The pro-democracy camp certainly wants the results to demonstrate that its cause enjoys the support of the people to show to the world and to the Chinese leadership," said Joseph Cheng, a pro-democracy political commentator.
Those under 36, the backbone of protesters, account for about a quarter of 4.1 million voters — nearly 60% of the city's population.
A drubbing for the pro-establishment camp that dominates the councils would embarrass the city's government and nullify Beijing's narrative that a minority of radical separatists colluded with foreign "black hands" and don't enjoy majority support, he said.
Pro-government candidates concede they are the underdogs but are urging voters to choose stability over violence.
Calvin Sze To, 29, said citizens will need to choose if they "want a stable government or continue to make a mess in Hong Kong." No matter the outcome, he said the government has to look into ways to heal society wounds.
Cheung Ka Yan, a 26-year-old accountant, said she jumped into the fray because many young people who support free elections for the city's leader and legislature — one of the protesters' key demands — decry violence.
"You cannot win universal suffrage by committing arson, killing people and hurling bricks and gas bombs. We must be rational and take one step at a time to realize this goal," she said.
The poll has ripple effects in higher-level elections. The winning camp gets to elect 117 representatives to the 1,200-member panel that picks the city's leader. The pro-democracy camp has some 300 supporters on the panel, so another 117 seats would greatly expand its influence, though still be far short of a majority.
Beijing has recently said it would tighten its control over the selection of Hong Kong's chief executive, though it has not said how.
"The Chinese leadership has indicated that it will retain its hard line and it is unlikely that Beiing will make concessions to a mass movement. It is very concerned of the demonstration effect in mainland China," Cheng said.
Prominent activist Joshua Wong, a leader in 2014 protests for universal suffrage, was the only candidate barred from running on grounds that his party advocates independence.
Police will be deployed to tighten security at dozens of polling stations across the city that will stay open for 15 hours Sunday. Some stations have been moved away from university campuses that turned into combat zones with protesters shooting flaming arrows and petrol bombs in intense clashes last week.
The unrest started in June over a now-abandoned extradition bill that would send criminal suspects to mainland China for trials and is seen as an erosion of freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese control in 1997. It has since morphed into an anti-China movement with demands for universal suffrage and an independent probe on police conduct.
"I cannot accept the fact that tear gas is fired everywhere and police brutality is getting worse. I made the right choice to quit," Yau said while campaigning on a recent afternoon in the upscale Causeway Bay shopping area.
Graffiti across some walls in the city agree that "the ballot is stronger than the bullet."