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Classic Spam: Nigerian 419 scam

The bottom line: Beware of personal appeals from complete and self-avowed strangers, particuarly if they are offering lots of money. Otherwise, invariably, the money will wind up leaving your bank account rather than going into it.

Here’s a typical example of the kind of message employed in the continuing “Nigerian 419 scam” (named for a section of the Nigerian criminal code that supposedly bars the practice), a con game so large and lucrative that it apparently employs thousands and accounts for a visible percentage of the Nigerian gross domestic product.


ATTN.: sir,
I got your contact through email business directory
and decided to send my proposal to you. I am MUYIWA
IGE the first son of the late chief BOLA IGE,the
attorney general of th e fedeal rebulic of Nigeria who
was killed by hired assasin on the 23rd of december
2001 by an unidentified gun men believed to be link to
our government of which it is a daily case going on in
my country;s dailies now.

Two months ago he was attempted to be murdered but
unfortunately God speared his life for us.It was then
he had to reveal some vital informations as regards
his life to me before he was finally killed in
december. All accounts belonging to my father both
local and abroad had been frozen and his investments seized by the
government believing in thier false allegation that he made away of $2
billion dollars of
(NEPA)national electricity power authority of which i
know is just a ploy to eliminate him by the people in
power that he is fustrating thier evil intentions
through the human right pubic hearing for violation of
right and cruelsome killings during the military
regime to carry out thier traits to suffer the mases
for thier selfish interest instead of the interest of
the nation.We are now in a dileman as ou live are in
danger till after the investigations.

Two weeks to the christmas holiday in 2001 being on
the 4th of december,my dad spoke to me at lenght about
life and it realities .He told me he deposited a trunk
box containing us$25.5m with a security in EAUROPE(UK)
all in the aim of retrieving it himself before he was
finally killed before the christmas. According to him
the content of the box was registered as government
classified papers with his influence and was moved out
of my country through diplomatic courrier.He wanted to
safeguard the funds for foriegn investment after his
retirement before he was killed.

In the light of this as the next of kin i am now
contacting you a foreigner to assist ME in retrieving the boxes and
depositing of the fund into your foreign account hence the need to
contact you. I and my mother had agreed to give you 30% of the fund for
your assistance and 10% for any expenses you might incur in the course
of this transaction, we want to believe that you will not sit on the
money when paid into your account. I want you to understand that there
is no risk involve as we have worked out modalities for the smooth
actualization of this goal. The boxes presently is in a security vault
of this company in their offshore office in
SPAIN.i will require the following for effecting
the documents of claim and identification.:

1] Your driving license to assure us of your person

2] Your private telephone and fax numbers.

I will send the following:
3] The receipt of the ware bill used in sending the
4] The deposit certificate

All these will be send through YOUR FAX NUMBER then you will proceed for
claim after due schedule with them.you

I wish to state here that we are left with nothing as
we survive by the grace of God. I hope you
understand our predicament so as to save me and my
family from hopeless future (S.O.S.)

All contacts for now should be through my personal email address for
security reasons.

Waiting your urgent response.

Best regards,



The game started out on postal mail and fax, but has since made the leap over to e-mail, where millions of potential suckers can be buttonholed at very little cost and with near impunity.

These messages are structured to look more like formal business letters than e-mails, and are often quantly typed in all-caps. They adhere to formula as tightly as any Harlequin bodice-ripper, and are very nearly as dramatic: A polite, pious, and cultured correspondent (often a government official, or a relative or widow of same) recounts tales of massive corruption and violence in African politics, and alludes to truckloads of cash that must be extricated from some hidey-hole with the help of a friendly foreigner. That’s where you, the reader, come in; In exchange for helping arrange a bit of shady international finance, you’ll stand to benefit from a generous share of the loot. Unfortunately, before you can collect, you will be required to surrender a variety of personal information to the scammer, and (here’s where the bite comes in) fund large accounts where the money is alledgedly to be deposited, or else pay other preparatory charges (which is where this racket gets its alternate name “advance-fee fraud”).

Another variation of the scam calls on you to pose as the next-of-kin of some dead foreigner so that you can convince some (no doubt fictitious) Nigerian banker to release the poor man’s assets to you and your new Nigerian friend. Here’s a more recent example of this variation:



I am Mr. Mark Fred an accounts officer in a financial institution,I
discovered a dormant account with a large amount of money valued $10,5 (Ten
Million Five Hundred Thousand us Dollars).Upon my investigation I discovered
it belonged to one of our late clients Mr. Herman Conner that died in a
automobile accident in November 1999. I got your details in my search for
any possible relation to Mr. Herman Conner. During the period of this
investigation i also discovered that the deceased died in the auto-accident
with his wife, he left no will and nobody behind to come for the claim as
next of kin. As his family could not be traced. The banking law here
stipulates that if such money remains unclaimed for six years, it will be
forfeited to the bank treasury as an unclaimed bill and sent to the
governments account. A local citizen cannot stand as a kin to a foreigner.
It is upon this discovery that i have decided to contact you to ensure that
the funds is used for some viable project as it ought to be instead of using
the funds for malicious purposes or for perpetrating evil. If you are
interest urgently reach me through the above stated email,telephone numbers
to enable me give you the full details of this transaction and how it is
going to work out. What i want from you is for you to act as the deceased
next of kin. I have in my possession all necessary document to successfully
accomplish this task. This whole process should be fully accomplished within
5-7 working days, further information will be given to you as soon as I
receive your positive response via e-mail or telephone. Anticipating your
urgent reply.

Best regards,

Mark Fred.


NB: Kindly send futher correspondence to markfred88@fastermail.com

This example is interesting in that it makes no mention of Nigeria (or any other country), and the perp has assumed what he imagines to be a “Western” name (somebody ought to tell him that “Fred” is not a very common last name hereabouts). No doubt this guy has realized that most people by now know of the “Nigerian Scam” (although they may not know what it is), so he thinks it might be wise to play down the Nigerianity of the letter. Too bad, though: 011-234 is the international calling code for Nigeria, if you know how to look up such codes. Note that he has “personalized” this with my last name; maybe he knows how to do Regular Expressions, or maybe he just singled me out for this treatment.

Although Nigeria remains the venue for most of these scams, I’ve also gotten them from Hong Kong, South Africa, and nations of the former Warsaw Pact.

Apparently, a signficant number of folks who should know better actually fall for this scam; when they do, they find themselves sucked ever deeper into the gag, being hit up for various bribes and fees that are supposedly expended in order to further the deal. Finally, the mark (or “wad,” as the scammers call him) is lured to Nigeria quasi-legally, where he is further fleeced and trapped in the country unless he can pay yet more bribes and fees to get out with his dermis still epi. Really, it is no laughing matter, since the U.S. State Department reports that as many as 25 people have disappeared or been killed in this racket.

On the other hand, this sort of spam is actually quite harmless as long as you don’t bite. Usually, unlike most spammers (who use telephone numbers or websites), the correspondents depend upon keeping an e-mail address open for the suckers to contact them, so you might like to report all e-mail addresses you find in order for them to be shut down.

If you’re interested in learning more about one of the biggest, best-organized, and longest-running of modern con games, here’s a good article on the Wired website describing the operation of this scam, and providing links to other resources. You should also visit the website of the U.S. Secret Service (http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml).

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(c) 2003-2007, Richard C. Conner ( )

08164 hits since March 28 2009

Updated: Sat, 18 Aug 2007