By MICHAEL WOODS
May 31, 2005
Address: Federal Capital Territory, Abua F.C.T. Send the control No. for prompt clearance for us to commence the procedure. Waiting to hear from you."
The "procedure" that the author of this email supposedly had in mind was to cheat the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation out of $31 million he had stashed away from over-invoicing on jobs done by foreign contractors.
By now, you'd think that everyone knows about the "Nigerian Scam," or the "advance fee fraud," one of the oldest long-distance con games. It started in the snail mail era, expanded with the arrival of fax machines, and exploded when email made it possible to contact thousands of people across the world for free.
However, the scammers continue to bilk unsuspecting people out of thousands of dollars, and it ranks as one of the most serious frauds on the Internet.
There are all kinds of variations on the con artists' pitch, which can come from other foreign countries in addition to Nigeria. Perhaps the most common involves a crooked government or bank official who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland promises.
He promises a percentage of the fortune for helping. The help may be up-front or "good faith" money to bribe officials and complete paperwork. Scammers may ask you to wire the money, or send your bank account information so they can supposedly deposit your share. Some want to set up a joint bank account with you. You deposit the good faith money, and they will deposit your multi-million dollar bounty.
They actually intend to steal every cent of your money. Send $500, and they need a little more to bribe another government official. Then they need a few thousand for the bank president. Victims eventually get in so deep that sending more money seems to make sense, even as their life savings goes down the drain.
For years now, I've been getting several Nigerian scam email messages a week, and simply deleting them. Recently, however, I've been scamming the scammers. "Count me in!" I just replied to one who identified himself as "Petit Dien," of the Ivory Coast. Names like "Petit Dien" and "Gabriel Aghadi" may be fake or honest people whose IDs the scammers have stolen.
It gets a crook's attention when you mention having $25,000 in a shoebox under the bed, all set to invest. They jerks usually believe it, too. Then there's a lively email correspondence that diverts the con artists for a while, and may keep them from finding real victims to bilk.
When you finally end the correspondence with an "oh-how-dumb-you-are" email, con artists take a mental hit. They're left hurting over the wasted time, and uncertain whether the next favorable response is genuine, or another scamee scamming the scammer.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.
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