Ah, nothing like finding the classic Nigerian Letter scam in your inbox in the morning, eh? I haven't seen one of these in a while - lately my spam has been a bit more sophisticated - and this almost makes me nostalgic. The Nigerian Scam or 419 Scam, usually called the Advance Fee Scam by law enforcement, is a variation of the classic Spanish Prisoner Scam, which used to be propagated via snail mail and is at least a hundred years old.
But, seriously, do people actually fall for this? You'd think that there was nobody left on the planet who hadn't heard of this. If you think that, you'd be wrong. Monetary loss estimates vary widely depending on source, but it's at least $100 Million annually in the US, and somewhere around the same in the UK. Most of you know, or have figured out, that I have a fairly low opinion of most of the human race's intelligence, but you've got to be kidding.
Let's take at look at this one, shall we?
I am Mr. Charles Brown, a Canadian Attorney based in Manchester, United Kingdom and the personal Attorney to Late Mr. Mark Michelle. Late Mr. Mark Michelle was a private oil consultant/ contractor with the Shell Petroleum Development Company in Saudi Arabia before his death, hereinafter shall be referred to as my client.
Okay, a Canadian, living in England. An attorney. So we're talking a guy with an advanced education in an English speaking country, working in an English speaking country - who calls his client "Late Mr. Mark Michelle," not the late Mr. Mark. Sounds like a character from a Sitcom, Late Mr. Mark! His engrish and sentence structure elsewhere in the letter indicate English isn't exactly Mr. Brown's first language. Possible, no doubt, he could be a Canadian immigrant, or, you know, one of them Quebec types.
Something else interesting in this paragraph: Nigeria. What, you don't see it? Look again, Shell Petroleum Development Company. See everywhere else in the world, it's just Shell Oil, but in Nigeria it's called the Shell Petroleum Development Company LTD of Nigeria. Oops.
Personally, I kind of like that whole hereinafter bit in the last sentence, gives it a nice lawyerly sounding tone.
On the 3rd day of January 2004, my client and his wife along with their two children were among the victims of Boeing 737 Egyptian Airliner that crashed into the Red Sea. You can read more about the crash by visiting this website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3365769.stm
This is a valid BBC website containing a story about an actual airplane crash. True story. It was Flash Airlines (an Egyptian charter company) flight 604, filled with French tourists on the way home to Paris from a resort in Egypt. Because it was a private charter, I was unable to find a passenger list confirming the existence of Late Mr. Mark Michelle and his family. However, a Google search for "Mark Michelle" and "Flight 604" leads directly to this site, dealing with UK Money Laundering and 419 Scams.
Since then, I have made several enquiries from the French embassies to locate his next of kin or any of his extended relatives, but all to no avail. My client made a deposit in a bank at Manchester valued presently at US$45,000,000.00 (Fourty-five Million United States Dollars) and the bank has issued me an official notification to provide his next of kin or beneficiary by will, otherwise the account will be confiscated within the next sixty (60) working days.
Enquiries (sic), Fourty (sic)? You'd think an attorney trusted with millions would have a secretary, or at least a spell checker, wouldn't you? What was the the name of that bank again? There's a whole bunch of other stuff in this paragraph, but I'll leave that up to you to discover for yourself - seriously, tell me what you see in the comments section.
Since I have been unsuccessful to locate any of my late client's relatives for over three (3) years now, I seek your consent to permit me present you as the next of kin/ beneficiary of my late client’s estate so that the proceeds of this account would be transferred to you.
There's that engrish again. But now we're getting down to it. How would you like to help me commit major international fraud, eh?
Already, I have set out modalities for achieving my aim of appointing a next of kin as well as transfer the money out of this country, for us to share the money in the ratio of 53% for me and 35% to you, The 2% of the fund will serve as reimbursement of expenses any of us will make in the course of this transaction. While we shall collectively donate the remaining balance of 10% to Tsunami Relief Organizations.
You've really got to admire an attorney who would admit his goal (fraud in the previous paragraph) and illegal aims (this paragraph) so directly. Honesty, it's so refreshing. We need more lawyers like this. I also admire the part where Mr. Brown admits just exactly how much this is going to cost me, 2% of $45M is $900,000! But the cherry on top is that last bit, Tsunami Relief. Ho! We're going to be crooks here, but, hey, at least we'll be able to feel good about it. Brilliant touch, really.
It is my intention to achieve this transfer in a legitimate way, all I required is your honest co-operation,confidentiality and trust to enable us see this transaction through. This is a very legal business that I am very sure of its success and is absolutely risk free.
What? Wait, now I'm confused. Honest, trust, very legal? Hmmm, I thought we were defrauding a Manchester bank to the tune of $45M? Well, this must be that whole "Honor Among Thieves" thing, forgive my slowness, I'm new to this whole life of crime thing. Absolutely risk free? Well, yeah, except for that part were we get used like inflatable livestock in the prison shower if we get caught.
Kindly signify your willingness to assist by sending me an email for further procedures relating to this transaction. The email shall include the below information:
1. Your telephone and fax numbers.
2. Your complete location address.
Once I receive your positive response, I will then furnish you with more details on how we shall proceed with the claim. I look forward to receiving your prompt response. Regards, Mr. Charles Brown
Tell you what, Charlie, why don't you send me your complete location address and business card, and I'll have somebody contact you.
Update: Surfing around looking for information on 419 scams, I came across something on the subject by Cory Doctrow, and a link to 419eaters: Cory thought it was clever, and so do I.