Tuesday, August 28, 2012

419: Nigerian Email Scam

Remember when email scams seemed fresh and fascinating? Yeah, me neither. But I had a bit of nostalgia today for the Clinton era and it was triggered by an unusual source: SPAM email. I received a 419 email today.

Below is the copy of the email:

Hello dear,

Compliment of the day, it might surprise you to receive a message like this from unknown person, well situation has pushed me to write you using this medium, read carefully and reply if you wish to continue with me. I am Madam. Mary Jane Kalo, I lost my husband few years ago, my husband was dealing on precious metals (Diamond and Gold) to precise before he died of brain cancer.

Since the death of my husband, his brothers have been seriously chasing me around with constant threats, trying to suppress me so that they might have the documents of his landed properties and confiscate them. They have successfully collected all his properties, yet they never stopped there, they told me to surrender all bank accounts of my late husband, which I did, but I never disclose to them of a certain deposit (US$10.5Million) he made in one of the reputable bank which I will disclose to you if you agree to assist me complete the transfer.

The reason for contacting you is because my husband made the deposit in a suspense fixed account with a clause attached to it for onward transfer into a foreign account. I have requested for the immediate release but the bank insisted that I must present a foreign account as agreed with my husband, on condition this I seek for your assistance.

For the few days I left my country with my only son who is 7 years now, we have been in hotel, besides my son is very sick now and I have used almost the little money with me to give him treatment yet not responding well because the doctor said he is having typhoid and malaria and the money the hospital is demanding for proper treatment is not with me now, therefore, I am waiting for the completion of the transfer to enable me have enough money. I will be coming to your country once the fund is transferred, because I want to go into real estate business or if you know any business that is more lucrative you can advise me as you will be my business partner.

I am ready to give you 15% as your commission and 5% as additional if you incur any expenses during the transfer, making 20% you will immediately deduct from the total fund transferred into your account. After reading this mail if you deem it necessary to give me a helping hand, kindly reply so that I will send you the bank contact to enable you write them officially as my foreign business partner, also send the following as requested by bank:

1. Your Names: 4. Marital Status:
2. Address: 5.Occupation:
3. Telephone: 6. Age:

The reason is to fill the bank transfer form in your name. Please for the sake of my security and the transfer, try and keep the information completely from third-party, never discuss this matter with another person This is my number you can call me to verify +22998520796. I will send you my pictures and the deposit certificate when I receive your reply remember to include the required information above to enable me fill the form.

Thanks for your co-operation,

Madam Mary Jane

This is commonly and derogatorily referred to as "Nigerian Email scam.' While it's unfair to stick one particular country with a fraudulent activity, it received a lot of attention on NPR around the beginning of 2001. Remember those prosperous days? Surplus in the government, low unemployment, people throwing money around on ridiculous dot.com ideas, and e-mail. I had just graduated from Northwestern University.

In the summer of 2001 I was working 3 different jobs (managing editor, documentary director, and bureau chief for real estate magazine). They were all very good jobs and through some psychic mind trick I was able to manage them with ease. I started receiving these strange emails. It sounded too good to be true so I passed it along to my friend. He was suspicious but willing to open up an empty account just to try out this scam. A few days later I was listening to NPR when I heard about the 'Nigerian letter scam.'

Most news sites explained the story as followed:

Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Overview

The perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), known internationally as "4-1-9" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes, are often very creative and innovative. 

Unfortunately, there is a perception that no one is prone to enter into such an obviously suspicious relationship. However, a large number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses to share in multi-million dollar windfall profits for doing absolutely nothing. It is also a misconception that the victim's bank account is requested so the culprit can plunder it -- this is not the primary reason for the account request -- merely a signal they have hooked another victim. 
  • In almost every case there is a sense of urgency.
  • The victim is enticed to travel to Nigeria or a border country.
  • There are many forged official looking documents.
  • Most of the correspondence is handled by fax or through the mail.
  • Blank letterheads and invoices are requested from the victim along with the banking particulars.
  • Any number of Nigerian fees are requested for processing the transaction with each fee purported to be the last required.
  • The confidential nature of the transaction is emphasized.
  • There are usually claims of strong ties to Nigerian officials.
  • A Nigerian residing in the U.S., London or other foreign venue may claim to be a clearing house bank for the Central Bank of Nigeria.
  • Offices in legitimate government buildings appear to have been used by impostors posing as the real occupants or officials.

The most common forms of these fraudulent business proposals fall into the following main categories:
  • Disbursement of money from wills 
  • Contract fraud (C.O.D. of goods or services) 
  • Purchase of real estate 
  • Conversion of hard currency 
  • Transfer of funds from over invoiced contracts 
  • Sale of crude oil at below market prices 
In the next stage some alleged problem concerning the "inside man" will suddenly arise. An official will demand an up-front bribe or an unforeseen tax or fee to the Nigerian government will have to be paid before the money can be transferred. These can include licensing fees, registration fees, and various forms of taxes and attorney fees. Normally each fee paid is described as the very last fee required. Invariably, oversights and errors in the deal are discovered by the Nigerians, necessitating additional payments and allowing the scheme to be stretched out over many months.

Several reasons have been submitted why Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud has undergone a dramatic increase in recent years. The explanations are as diverse as the types of schemes. The Nigerian Government blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of foreigners.
Indications are that Advance Fee Fraud grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate. In all likelihood, there are victims who do not report their losses to authorities due to either fear or embarrassment.

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