A creative Nigerian letter
"Nigerian letters" are one of the best known types of Internet scam. Someone you have never heard of will send you an e-mail, offering you a lot of money in return for your help to move an unrealistically large sum of money out of an obscure African state. All you have to do is give your consent and your bank details. Of course, once you have done so, you may find that money has been withdrawn from your account instead of deposited there, and you never hear again from that particular scammer. In other cases, if the scammers are not able to withdraw money right away for some reason, they will ask you to pay a small fee for the bank transfer of the money to your account. After a short time, another request will come, this time a payment for bribing a stubborn bank officer not cooperating, and after that... well, you got the idea. You will continue to pay until you get tired of it. Naturally, the promised sum of money, as well as the large deposit to be moved abroad, never existed. Nigerian letters may also involve business proposals asking you to travel there, and there are several documented cases of would-be foreign businessmen being threatened, beaten, robbed, kidnapped and, in some cases, murdered after their arrival. Variants of Nigerian letters will tell you you have won the first prize in a lottery you never entered (but you will discover in due time that there are fees to pay before you can claim your prize), a large inheritance from an unknown relative, and so on.
At first sight, all these stories and requests would seem to be quite lame (after all, would you trust someone on a street corner offering to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge or US Capitol at a special price?), were it not for the almost unbelievable fact that many fall for the scam and pay, and some are even fool enough to travel to one of those countries to wrap up the "deal".
Nigerian letters owe their name to the fact that writing them seems to have become the favourite occupation of many Nigerians with access to the Internet. Writing Nigerian letters is of course prohibited by Nigerian law (how effectively, we have already seen). Nowadays, a Nigerian letter may come from anywhere and involve financial or business proposals in any third-world country, although Africa is still the primary source. In some recent cases (see the example at the bottom of this page), it would seem that financial gain is no longer the primary goal, and that the originators of these e-mails are simply collecting e-mail addresses to sell to spammers. If you reply to them, even to say you are not interested, they will have confirmation of a real, active e-mail account, which is what they want. Even receiving a higher load of spam, however, is a nuisance better avoided with simple common-sense. Repeat with me: "There is no free lunch".
There are numerous Internet resources dealing with this type of fraud, and the simplest way to cope with a Nigerian letter is to ignore and delete it. If you have the time and necessary knowledge, you may report it to the ISP of the originating domain, although this is less effective than it used to be. These scammers either use free e-mail accounts you can get on-the-spot without any proof of identity, so they will simply get a new one in a couple of minutes once the current one is closed, or (in the more sophisticated cases) relay their e-mail through a network of home or office computers infected with trojan malware, without the knowledge of their owners.
Through the years, I have been contacted by long-lost relatives, bank officers seeking an exceptionally honest, but totally unknown to them, person to safely entrust with large sums of money, princesses in distress, and a varied fauna of relatives of tragically deceased prime ministers and heads of state. All these important persons, of course, were using the type of free e-mail account you can sign for, and immediately begin using, online, and many of them were unable to write proper English. I have also won the first prize of the Irish Lottery at least twice a week in the past two years, plus numerous other international lotteries - a remarkable accomplishment, considering that I never bought any lottery tickets. I have been hand-picked dozens of times as the fiduciary of African miners wanting to sell hundreds of kilograms of gold dust, diamonds, and other precious stones. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive an e-mail informing me that I have been elected president of the United States or pope of the Catholic Church. I wonder why. Maybe I should complain to the White House and Vatican.
This page was prompted by an unusually "creative" Nigerian letter, claiming to offer a financial compensation to earlier victims of Internet scams, and to be signed by an unknown officer on behalf of the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. I am copying the whole e-mail below for your enjoyment. Note, especially:
The following example of lottery spam e-mail shows a clear lack of enthusiasm. I agree that it must be boring and lackluster to write e-mails telling unknown people that they have won the first prize of a non-existing lottery, hour after hour, day in and day out, without any variety, knowing that between 100,000 and 1,000,000 e-mails must be sent before a lost soul eventually will decide to answer a single one. My suggestion to the writers of this and similar spam if that, if you are soooo bored, you should rather find another way to spend your time. There simply must be a better way to earn some money. Otherwise, the less enthusiasm you put into writing spam, the less your returns will be - unless, of course, you are being paid by the number of e-mails you write, not for their quality or the number of responses. In this case, by all means do continue to write bored-to-death messages like the following one, which will fail to attract the attention of even an equally bored reader.
Talking of Nigerian letters, if the text at the following link should turn out to be a true Nigerian letter, it would be my candidate for the all-time first prize for creativity. Unfortunately, it is likely a hoax. However, if the author of the following text can prove to me he/she is the author, and that he/she really sent it as a Nigerian letter, I solemnly promise to devolve to him/her the first prize of the English Lottery I just won today (less administrative expenses and taxes, to be paid to me in advance):
analdwelling-rebel-martians This "letter" has been copied to several other web sites and bulletin boards, and there is no way to know how and where it originated. This poor fellow is stranded on Mars, dying as a result of tortures by sexually deviant Martians, and in urgent need of your help to devolve to charity a large sum of money stored in his account on Earth.
The above link is dead, but one copy of the letter is available here.
You can find many links about Nigerian letters and their overall economic impact on national economies here. It seems Nigerian letters have been the flagship export product of Nigeria for quite some years and the primary export of Nigeria besides oil, although they are by no means originating only from this country.