May 24, 2013
Don’t Touch That Mail!
Posted on Jan 25, 2007
With this, you are in for another round of “Nigerian roulette.” Once they secure your confidence, they start asking for the usual things—processing fee, handling charges, legal/documentation charges etc.
The Yahoo-guy criminals are quite creative. No one can claim to have an exhaustive list of their tricks.
An American soldier may need your help to move 10 boxes of gold and diamonds belonging to Saddam Hussein out of Iraq to a safe place where you can both enjoy the loot.
An art/antiques dealer may need you to be his representative in Europe and America. A dealer in African haute couture may want you to be his/her representative in America.
The son of a white Zimbabwean farmer who was murdered by Mugabe’s hit squad may need your help to get his father’s money out of Zimbabwe.
A wealthy South African HIV-positive couple may wish to leave their children in your care after they pass on.
Your mail may originate from an African country other than Nigeria or from Europe or even the United States. But it is the same scam. Yahoo guys have broad-spectrum connections. They have collaborators of all races. They may also use space aliens and flying saucers for effect. Voodoo, witchcraft, black magic, curses, hexes and spells may be used to suck in those who have a taste for the exotic.
And when Yahoo guys decide to be really mean, they invite you to come to view your “investment” in Nigeria, South Africa or somewhere in Europe. This often happens when the mugu or maga (the person being scammed) is trying to be smart or inquisitive. Going on such a trip is like going into extreme sports. The next turn could be a last lap. One such visiting “business partner” was found with a knife in his heart in a Lagos hotel some years back.
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If a scammer persists in trying to ensnare you, snail-mail whatever scam documents s/he sends to the United States Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 419 Task Force, 950 H Street, Washington, D.C. 20001-4518, USA. Mark the documents “No Financial Loss—For Your Database.” Or, you may e-mail the task force at email@example.com.
You may also write the e-mail provider of a potential scammer and include the 419 message with its headers. Complain about the 419 message and ask that the account be shut down.
Among the forms of the Nigerian scam is the over-invoiced or double-invoiced oil, health, defense, peacekeeping or other supply and service contract: The Nigerian government overpaid on some contract, and we need a front man to get it out of the country before authorities discover the error.
Apart from protecting your financial self-interest, there is an ethical question here. Should you really be helping this fellow to defraud his government? This is clearly an under-the-table deal—and you would have to crawl to get under the table. Nice people don’t crawl.
A bequest may be left you in a will by some long-lost relative whose lawyer is a Nigerian or by a wealthy childless Nigerian who is on his deathbed and wants to punish his greedy relatives by leaving all his money to a stranger or to your church. As usual, you pay processing fees, documentation fees, handling charges. You may even have to chip in toward the burial expenses or memorial rites. It goes on until the scales fall off your eyes.
For the bizarre, try the money-cleaning scam: Someone has a lot of currency that needs to be “chemically cleaned” before it can be used. He needs to share the cost of the chemicals with you so that you get a percentage of the money when it is cleaned. The story here is that the money was smeared with black grease to escape detection by customs X-rays and this grease needs to be cleaned off with chemicals that are very expensive.
And for the absurd, the spoof bank scam is unbeatable. Here, there is supposedly money in your name or a name that looks like yours already on deposit in some bank and you have to pay fees to regularize the transaction. You may also be asked to pay some money into the account as proof of your commitment to the deal. Call it “counterpart funding.”
The secret shopper variation offers some melodrama. Someone orders items on trading and auction sites on the Web and pays with fake money orders or checks.
At the end of the line, you will be paid for the purchase with a check in excess of the amount required for some reason that appears genuine at first. Your “client” will ask you to forward the overpayment to a third party via a cashier’s check or money order. Your bank will later inform you that you were paid with a bad check. You will then have to pay back whatever you took from the bank in addition to the goods you have now lost. All efforts to contact your “business partner” will be unsuccessful.
The chat room and romance variation is the most interesting. It is usually combined with one of the other forms of 419. You meet someone in a chat room and fall head over heels in love. (Do such things really happen?) The object of your affection secures your confidence one way or the other. S/he then begins to play on your emotions, making what look like harmless requests at first (small change, camera, mobile phone etc.). But as the plot thickens, you begin to part with more valuable things.
An offer of marriage is made to further suck you in. Undying love is declared on both sides. You need to send engagement rings and money for a traditional betrothal ceremony at this point. You also need to send gifts to an extended family of in-laws. The “love of your life” is a poor, cash-strapped African, and you need to give financial muscle to the relationship. You need to pay the bride price. You may even be asked to pay for a virginity test, or, if the distant loved one is male, for a manhood test. There will also be a wine-carrying ceremony. There will be sacrifices to appease the ancestors for the sacrilege of a “prince/princess” marrying a stranger. Before you know it, you have invested heavily in what should have been a simple matter of the heart.
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