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October 06, 2008

A 419er Overloads Hook with Bait

You've seen the typical 419 letter: Someone died a horrible accidental death in Africa, and left millions without an heir.

You've seen the typical 419 lottery letter: Your email address was picked at random to be the winner of a multi-million (dollars/pounds/euros) prize.

Today I saw a hybrid—not only of these two scams, but a further scam-de-scam-scam on the scam. The 419er's story has more layers than an onion.

The sender identifies himself as follows:

Our Ref: UBN/IRD/UBX/021/07

I'm omitting the telephone number and email address—the only two pieces of information that are real. When I saw the sender's name, I did a "redrum" check to see if he was at least trying to play a clever trick. I think I gave him too much credit.

The body of the message is overlong (and in all capital letters), so I'll peel the layers for you one by one.

Layer I.
A bunch of American contractors/philanthropists (?) and their families died in a bomb blast a few years ago (obligatory link to a 2003 BBC News item included for good measure). Despite a desperate search, no heirs could be found, and $4.7 million is sitting in a Nigerian bank.

Layer II.
The President-elect of Nigeria wants to "salvage the image" [lower-cased for your protection] and "restore the international relationship" of Nigeria. This magnanimous president directed the Nigerian bank to conduct "an electronic computer random ballot system for all emails [sic] users drawn from over emails [sic] address [sic] of individual [sic] and companies from Africa, America, Europe and Asia." [sick] Wouldn't ya know it, my email address was picked as the lucky winner! I am advised to "donate to some motherless or orphanage homes to help the less prevelages. [sic] It is mainly for the upliftment [sic] of human growth." (Not to be mistaken for human growth hormone spam.)

Layer III.
Lest I dawdle in claiming the winning prize, Mr. Redrum then reveals that "a woman with British passport came to my office few days ago with a letter, claiming to be your true representative." OMFG!! Someone's trying to cheat me out of my prize! "If we do not hear from you within the next three working days from today the fund will be remitted to Mrs. Susan Barker and this bank will not be held responsible and this our email communication shall be our evidence against you in case of any scandal or law action by you against the management of this bank."

Holy crap, that's a lot of bait on the hook. It's like the kid who uses up too much material to explain missing homework: "A burglar stole our dog who ate my essay after a plumbing leak soaked my backpack."

Because some people still fall for 419 schemes, this tall tale will certainly get those types of folks to act. Even if they're not sure about the "prize" money, they may be concerned that someone is going around Africa claiming to represent the recipient. Except that the sender doesn't have a clue who the recipient is—"ATTENTION DEAR FRIEND"—and there is no one making such claims. Anyone foolish enough to contact this guy by email or especially by phone is treading dangerously close to being conned by very convincing crooks, and taken for big bucks.

Posted on October 06, 2008 at 12:23 PM