I don’t really know why I’m so fascinated by Nigerian Scams. But I am. I got a bizarre one today. I’m sure it’s been around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve received one like it. It’s the moneygram scam.
John Atkins emailed me (from a gmail account) telling me he’s sending me part of my money via moneygram. He gave me the reference code and the answer to the secret question. (I will share it with you so you have it too. It’s “green.”) Then the email says you can’t contact him at his email account, but if you have questions, write to this AOL account.
This is a very bizarre twist. I mean, do people really fall for this? Yep. For instance, some county treasurer in Michigan actually embezzled money from the county because he fell victim to one of the scams. How stupid can you get?
A group called Ultrascan has been tracking 419 scams for a few years. According to a 2006 report, people in the U.S. lost over 700 million dollars was lost to 419 scams. I have no idea of this research is valid. Interestingly, this group calls Nigerian scams “rhizomatic.” I think a whole paper could be written on this subject. (Someone else can do it…anyone?) You can see that it’s rhizomatic by reading the Wikipedia entry on Advance Fee Fraud. It lists several variations on the 419 scams.
So, I’ve been joking on my 419/Nigerian/Spanish Prisoner/advance fee fraud scam emails for a while on my blog. Once, I even wrote some of these guys back, giving them the name of other scammers who they might appeal to for help raising funds. Little did I know that this is a sport that many people engage in. It’s called “scambaiting.” A couple of years ago Wired magazine also had an article on scambaiting. I think I will do this more often!
I’ve read in probably half a dozen websites that that Nigerian scams are something like the third largest industry in Nigeria. I don’t know how true that is. I haven’t really seen a reliable source for that information. Apparently the problem is so large, that the Central Bank of Nigeria released a press release about it, a copy of which can be found on The U.S. Post Office website.
A site called Quatloos has a Nigerian Scam Gallery of letters. When I have some time, I’m going to go through it and maybe submit some that I’ve collected. Another scam gallery can be found on fraudgallery.com. This site also has links to other scam galleries. Also, the scams have morphed, now posted on Craig’s List, Monster.com (hiring people to be the go-between for money from the U.S. to Nigeria), chat rooms, facebook, and there are even rental based Nigerian scams that cheat landlords out of money, and Nigerian scams regarding puppies.
ABC did a segment on Nigerian Scams, which can be viewed on youtube. The segment is funny. The reporter sent monopoly money to one of the scammers and then followed the process it went through. They found a sort of sweat shop of scammers in Lagos. They also show a few people who were scammed. The segment is worth a look.
As an aside, I initially thought that the opening of the segment seemed a little racist, with a hyperbolic video of some highly colorfully attired Nigerians singing and dancing about ripping off Americans. But then I read the Christian Science Monitor, which explained that this video was made by a Nigerian comedian named Osofia and it’s called the Scammers Anthem. The song translates as, “”419 is just a game. You are the loser, I am the winner. White people greedy…. I take your money and disappear…. You be the fool, I be the master.”
Apparently, Ben Stiller is going to make a movie about Nigerian Scams. And reportedly it’s -not- going to be a comedy.