But now, the emails actually serve as a current events lesson, invoking names and situations right out of the headlines. The "Nigerian Letter" scam, as this became known, apparently acquired the Nigerian connection, and became more widely known, when the crooks running it began to use email in the 1990s. The first criminals to use the email angle talked about illegal funds trapped in Nigeria (a country generally considered the most corrupt on the planet.).
Some of that spam clogging your email represents an unintended media campaign to impress upon people the extent to which corruption afflicts African and Middle Eastern nations. The scam basically asks you to allow the use of your bank account to move millions of dollars "trapped" in an account somewhere. In return, you get a large commission. In reality, if you participate, your own bank account usually gets cleaned out.
U.S. government investigators estimate that over a hundred million dollars a year is lost to these scams. Actually, this kind of swindle is rather old, the first examples showing up in the 1920s, when letters went out asking for the use of bank accounts to help a wealthy family get one of their sons out of a Spanish prison. This became known as the "Spanish Prisoner" scam. It worked then, it works now.
In the past two years, there have been "Nigerian Letters" purporting to be from kin of Osama bin Laden, aides to Saddam Hussein and members of Palestinian terrorist organizations. It has been rumored that some Nigerian Letters are actually sent by intelligence agencies, in an attempt to uncover leads to pro-terrorist organizations, or budding terrorists. No one is talking about that one, but these letters do have a way of bringing out the worst in some people.
Below is a recently received letter invoking a corrupt henchman of exiled Liberian president Charles Taylor and problems with some large sums of illegally obtained money. The email is full of typos, grammatical errors and misspellings, which may reflect the fact that anyone can get into the business these days, or is part of scam ("these dumb Liberians can't steal or spell worth a damn"). But, if you take the bait, you'll quickly find out who the real dummy is, and it ain't the guy who can't spell.
Email received from; email@example.com
C/o Eglise Uganda (Catholic church )
Good Day !
I know this mail will come to you as a surprise, nevertheless I am Patrick Rachidi, aged 24 years, the son of Major Doncan John. Rachidi, Chief Security Officer and Aide-decamp to the president Charles Tailor of Liberia before.
As a result of the war in my country, I am saddled with problems of my mothers ill health condition of protracted diabetes and high blood pressure which is getting of increase in the resent times and also getting a trust worthy individual abroad to receive the sum of US$9 million Due to the war crises presently before in my city Monrovia our home town, my father managed to sneak me and my mother of 59 years of age and four other of my sisters out of Monrovia to Dakar senegal for safety, before he was now killd by the rebels duering the war crises .
My father adviced me to get a trust worthy individual abroad to receive the sum of US$9,000,000.00 million cash deposited here in Dakar Senegal.
I and my mother feel confident therefore to introduce ourself and this offer to you based on this problem of war of our country and our present condition as all foreign contacts and connections of the family got lost during the crises, all properties burnt by the rebels .
I and my mother is desperately in need to move and re-locate this huge deposit to your country for safe keeping as this is the only wealth remaining for the future survival and well being of our entire large family.
For your percentage for assistance, a negotiable percentage will be discussed as soon as we receive your response based on this plea for your assistance as our lives are highly in danger due to war.
I and my mother pray and plead for your help. You can contact us strictly on email.
God bless you as you heed to our plea for assistance.
Patrick Junior Rachidi.