I’m not wistful or complaining or anything, but I haven’t been getting e-mails from my African friends lately.
I am speaking of what has long been called the “419 Scam” or the “Nigerian 419 Scam.” These are a variety of schemes under what is basically an advanced fee ruse that started through unsolicited snail mail and quickly adapted to the electronic age. Many of the letters are downright creative, often relaying some tale of woe either at the hands of ruthless African dictators or the story coming from someone claiming to be a relative of a deposed strongman. Those who write always want to give you money. The problem is you have to pay for it first, such as in some sort of transaction fees. As if there is some honor among thieves, many of these scam artists quite often are courteous enough to have the subject of the e-mail (most often the text as well)in all capital letters.
Here is an example found on the excellent fraud education site Quataloos that purportedly comes from Nzanga Joseph Desire Mobutu, who claims to be the son of deposed, exiled and now dead Zaire (Congo Republic) dictator Joseph Mobutu.
I got your contact during my search for a stranger that can cooperate with me in this mutual transaction. I want you to note that this business will benefit both of us. However, you must confirm your ability to handle this because it involves a large amount of money. The money (50 million US DOLLARS is my share of my father’s estate. I boxed and shipped the money to a security company abroad at the peak of the war/political crisis that rocked my country few years ago. Now the crisis has ended and I need a trustworthy person like you to proceed to the place of the security company in order to clear the fund and invest on my behalf as I don’t want my name to be used for now.
Well, a couple of things Joe, or should I call you Nzanga? First of all, your letter makes it seem as if you went down to the local liquor store and asked for empty boxes in which you could ship off the 50 million US DOLLARS. I would almost pay just to see someone box up 50 million US DOLLARS. Secondly, you don’t know me and you say you need a ‘trustworthy’ person like me to help clear the fund? Hell’s bells! Even the mention of 50 million US DOLLARS gives me untrustworthy, not to mention impure and evil thoughts.
Finally, Nzanga Joe, if that is indeed your real name, we have a saying over here in the United States: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If Mobutu was (and I’m assuming he really wasn’t) your father, I don’t think I would particularly become business partners with someone whose father was a supporter of the Hutu fanatics who were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda. I know that I shouldn’t judge you by your dad (fake dad most likely), but it just doesn’t appear to be great business sense to partner up with the son of a dictator caught up in a genocide. Sorry. But on a lighter note, your pops did look kind of snazzy in leopard-skin get-ups. I don’t suppose they were faux fur?