Nigerian scams fascinate me. Due to my recent life circumstances, their mutations surround me. I posted on Craigslist because I want to rent out a room, only to discover the barrage of roommate scams. I joined (yes, ..oy), which is a veritable cesspool of scammers.

Nigerian Scam vs. Spanish Prisoner

Saying scammers come out like bugs in the night has disturbing racial overtones. Why did “Nigerian scam” stick instead of “Spanish Prisoner”? Nigerian scams, perpetuated by actual Nigerians but by others too, are more recent than others, and therefore the name is more relevant. Also, people today probably don’t resonate with the idea of a Spanish aristocrat languishing in a dungeon somewhere due to political unrest. The other name for the Nigerian scam is “advance fee fraud” because you advance the scammer money. Also not sticking. I have to wonder, then, if the racialized overtone doesn’t contribute to which name persists.

All scammers use a template. Once you identify the template, it’s easy to spot the scam. In general, the templates are blatantly obvious. Still, who the hell would send a stranger some money???? A lot of people! That, I don’t get.

Now on to the scams. I momentarily got addicted to the entire experience. You know the bug metaphor? I felt like pest control. I felt like it was my duty to root out and eliminate them. I went on a bug hunt. There were so many that I eventually gave up. Here’s the template:

  1. Of course, the broken English is a dead giveaway.
  2. The scammers tend to be from outside your geographic location; I assume this facilitates the scam because F2F contact can be perpetually deferred.
  3. When contacting you via chat or email, their greeting includes a term of endearment such as “lovely,” “pretty,” “beautiful,” and the like.
  4. They  request your email or phone contact info immediately.
  5. They want to get you off of Match IMMEDIATELY and they ALWAYS want to chat via Yahoo, never any other service. I don’t understand the choice of Yahoo. Maybe someone can explain that.
  6. They avoid questions that require details about themselves or about concrete things that can’t be Googled. That’s a no-brainer. I read an interesting article about figuring out if you’re chatting with a chatbot, which is how I know to look for that cue. For a while I suspected these scammers were chatbots generated by Match to keep your interest and membership. This isn’t true, by the way.
  7. The profiles describe perfect romantic character traits without the personal details and the preferences are never completely filled out. Typically the looks, body build, age range, and lifestyle are “out of my league.” Think Hollywood. Occasionally they switch gender pronouns midstream since they are poorly edited boilerplates.
  8. The likes and dislikes section has some sort of bizarre “sensitive” thing in it, like “I love Oprah.”
  9. The profile disappears in a few days or even a few hours after contact.

Really, who falls for this crap? It seems to me anyone who is computer literate enough to get onto an internet dating site has got to be savvy enough to identify a Nigerian scam.

After my tenth or so interaction, I decided to test my theory and to see how the scam unfolded. I wanted to see how much information the scammer would reveal, or if I could trip him up. I also wanted to check for chatbots. So I engaged in a conversation. Two interesting things happened. First, I eventually challenged him so that he was off guard, and I basically said, “Your script is the same.” I listed the giveaways. “You’re obvious. You’re stupid. You need to mix it up some. Why is it that you people always want to go to Yahoo. What’s up with Yahoo anyway?” I really do want an answer to that question.

During this conversation, I reported the user profile ID to Match and it returned a message saying no such profile existed. Now, that concerned me. How could this person be chatting if the profile didn’t exist? I thought maybe there’s a spoof program or a hack? The Match help desk people were jerks about it. They followed their own script, basically advising me how to avoid getting scammed and warning me off of giving money or personal information. So, while I tell them I’m scam hunting and that a nonexistent member is chatting with me, they’re telling me not to send personal information. Does anyone see a problem in that????

Now, while I’m on the phone with Match help desk, I’m still IMing with the scammer. He’s trying to evade me and I’m feeling mighty proud of my sleuth skills. I tell him that I discovered that his profile didn’t exist. On the phone, Match tells me he probably closed it while chatting with me (makes sense…).  The scammer then says, “You no mugu…” and promptly disconnects. Perplexing. What does that mean?

Mugu is Nigerian slang or pidgin for “Big Fool.” I have to wonder what that means. Is it a compliment? Or is it an ironic statement that I am indeed a mugu after all? I triple checked my pockets to see if they got picked.

Anyway, the roommate scams are equally amusing. Apparently naive college students are actually falling for it. There are warnings specifically about this scam posted on the roommate section on Craigslist by other advertisers. It’s the old advance fee standby where the scammer overpays with a fake money order and then requests a refund.

The emails are a stitch. So, here’s the first one I received in all its ESL glory – scroll over for my commentary, like on xkcd! These emails make me laugh, really laugh.

Thanks for getting back to me… My name is Belle Dale(F),I am 27yrs old,I am fun loving, personal,  friendly,clean and respectful of others. A non-smoker, don’t do drugs, i drink occasionally,and drama free. I graduated last year in France. I am single and have no children… I do bible study, and sometimes we do karaoke night with my roommate! i go to church every Sunday. Am coming for my masters degree. I was born in France (Bordeaux), my dad is from USA but my mum is from Paris…I went to University of Bordeaux in France i speak both French and English ,am presently on research work at Guam USA), am almost done with the research. Am doing it because its part of prerequisite for my masters in Microbiology. I would have loved to call you but this is a remote area calls is hard to go through from here and i don’t want to waste much time.

Am really interested in renting from you and i don’t really love pets but i don’t care if there is any in the house. I would have loved to see it but am very far,but with pictures,I am glad. I will also like you to tell me more about you and if you have garage or parkingspace because I will have my own car come over, please let me know the total payment of the place and more over I will send your email to my dad for him to email you later because he is the one that will be paying the bills but nevertheless,I will like you to send me

Get back to me with the information to facilitate the mailing of the check.
= First Name:
= Last Name:
= Street Address:
= City, State, Zip Code:
= Cell Phone Number:
= Total Amount :

so that my Dad will issue out the payment for the place as soon as possible,with that you can hold on the place for me till i come. I will be looking forward to your email soonest. Thanks and have a nice day.

Now, most people seem to have caught on, but some don’t. I should have caught on immediately as soon as I read the first line or two because of the broken English and the overseas angle, but I received a couple of legitimate inquiries from international students so I wasn’t paying much attention. I made it past the bible part and all the way up to the karaoke part. I emailed back, because I like doing that, which you will know if you’ve read my other Nigerian scam entries. Other advertisers haven’t been as quick on the uptake:

I unsuspectingly replied to these fraudulent e-mails thinking they were legitimate roommates, but after several exchanges, my gut instincts told me better.

Several exchanges? Seriously? I’m glad word is out. It’s unfortunate because I do need a roommate and a microbiologist who speaks French would be neat. I’ll pass on the biblical karaoke part, though.


  1. Your article fails to mention that if you send them a picture of dogs having intercourse, they generally cease correspondence.

    1. Author

      For that comment, you make it past the spam filter…..

  2. You rock! I thought I was the only female out hear going WTF on the yahoo messenger thing! Here is my favorite. I am in the Army and in Afghanistan or Iraq! What is sad is the these Nigerians scammers are using righteous Army guy’s photos to do the scams. When the Armt members were located and interviewed they were horrified!

    I actually met my last long term boyfriend on and my son’s father met his new wife on match so it is possible, but like finding a needle in a haystack! Thanks for your article!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Gabrielle! Sad to hear. Very sad.

  3. Be aware! These guys are very good. I was actually three hours from picking someone up at the airport! And then at the very last moment, Verdez. The request for money. Flight was delayed need money to get from UK to US. Another was an international building contractor, but had no website, and I couldn’t find the company name anywhere. Unfortunately, now I have two subscriptions to dating sites where I probably won’t find anyone. There is a positive side however. Right now I’m having a lot of fun with a scammer. Finally get him on the hook!
    The other thing you can do to avoid being scammed is to ask for a local landmark. If you can’t get an answer fairly quickly hang up!

    1. Author

      That’s great advice – asking for a landmark, though it’s easy to googlemap and pick something up. They are crafty!

      1. I was on Match “once.” Everyone that responded was from either New York and/or L.A. and was in the midwest [somewhere] on business. All of them.

        My thing is always to ask what the capital of where they claim to be, claim to be moving to, etc. When you start getting tricky, no matter how nice (and, I am in pest control as well 😉 ) — they run. In a 6 month membership, I never had one single bite that wasn’t a NIgerian scammer. I am not BAD. I am thin, long hair, educated — I mean what do you want?? WHY is ALWAYS the NIGERIANS??

        To change the subject, today on The Real (talk show), Rachel Dolezal [finally] admitted that she was born of a white mother and white father. “I identify as black.” Okay, the big thing today is “identifying as male or female (these days, you choose, not God or biology). NOW, you can identify as black or white. How far does this “I identify” and the truth get to run? We’ve done away with he/she, black/white, can I be a horse? Dog? Priest? Tree? Unfortunately, if you can so easily change your identity with a simple “I am. . . ” Where does the end of that sentence end? Just a thought. Oh! I know! I identify as a Nigerian, from Guam, but with Asian features (just look hard).

  4. Yep,! I was also almost scammed, too! First, stay away from the younger ones. All they want to do is get you on yahoo’s IM because there is no email trace. I did IM this person. I say person because you really don’t know you you’re chatting with. Anyway, her profile said she was from Philadelphia, PA, so I thought, OK, if she is a scammer, the US will go after her. I finally got her to say where she was from on the IM. Guess where. Ghana! So, I knew at that point it was a scam because through the entire chat, she always used lower case letters, you couldn’t hardly understand her English (she spelled cheat as chet). I finally said, I had to go, then looked up Ghana scams. Sure enough, I was right. Then, I tried to get back into my account, and let this person change my email address, password and username. I can’t get back into my account. To top it all off, you have to call to ask for a refund, but they won’t accept calls on Saturday….WTF?
    I’ve sent several emails to explaining the situation. Their responses were to clear my cookie cache… and call them for a refund. The thing is, I’ve only been on there ONE day!!!!!
    MY advice. Anyone overseas is a scammer because the government won’t go after them. I tried to report another scammer from Russia on the FBI’s IC3 unit, but they did nothing. If you send them money, you will never get it back!

  5. I know why they are using yahoo. Its a geografical and cultural thing. You also call them ‘overseas’, but the problem is they are everywhere. Thanks for writing all this, if you want to know more about why the Yahoo thing or have other questions be free to contact me. I’m very known with the subject.

  6. I got scammed on, he goes by the name of Steve Williams from the Bahamas, who lives in San Francisco. He “fell in love” with me only after a week, I told him, how could you fall in love with me after one week, and we haven’t even met. He said, I always follow my heart and my heart is telling me that you are the one for me. He then says that he cancelled his account because he no longer needed it. I told him he shouldn’t of done that because he didn’t know if we were going to work out. He was sure and confident that we would. I continue talking to him, and fell under his charm. He told me he had to go overseas for a contract and when he returned back to the US, we would finally meet. While overseas, he got into financial trouble and needed money. He told me the faster he got the money the faster he would be back in the US to finally be in my arms. He asked for money, and of course saying he would never ask a lady for money, but that he was desperate. After repeated begging, I told him I would send him some. I talked to my kids, and they told me not to send money, that it was probably a scam. I wanted so bad to meet Steve, I had fallen for him , and I wanted to help him. I confronted him, and asked him if I couldn’t get the money, would he still “love me”? Of course he said yes and not to worry that he would get the money somewhere else. Next day, he was very ill, due to the stress he was under because he needed money. I sent him 3500.00, which was so stupid of me, but again I fell for him. I got a thank you from him and then told me he would be sending me a copy of his confirmation of flight back to the US, I never heard from him again. I am posting this because I don’t want another woman to be scammed by this so called Steve WIlliams from Bahamas and living in San Francisco.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.