SECTION 419 is the section of the Nigerian penal code that deals with confidence schemes. There are a lot of them, and they go way back. Typically, the intended victim receives a letter from Nigeria disclosing a tricky political situation, asking help in hiding a lot of slightly-illegal cash. The payoff for doing this is said to be tens of millions of dollars, enough to get anyone's greed glands going. But, um, before the cash can be sent, there minor expenses. An important official must bribed, the support of a critical village elder must be obtained by buying an expensive gift for his daughter's wedding, someone must be bailed out jail, and so on. Always the huge cash transaction is just around the corner, just about to take place, but we first we have this minor additional expense...
This goes on for years, extracting a few hundred or a few thousand dollars from the victim each time, sometimes for years, until the victim finally gives up. Sometimes the victim of the scam is urged to travel to Nigeria himself to pick up the cash. If he does so, he is kidnapped, and held until he comes up with even more money. If things go very badly, sometimes he is killed. There was an interesting article in Salon about this a while ago, and a Google search on '419' and 'Nigeria' gets over 15,000 hits.
The reason I mention it is that I got my first 419 e-mail spams in the last couple of weeks. Back in the day, 419 syndicates sent snail mail to US citizens (and maybe those of other countries) whose names they culled from business directories and the like. Nowadays, they've joined the ranks of the e-mail spammers. The Salon writer loved the colorful prose and characters in the 419 stories. While the spams I received don't quite measure up to his (where are the Lebanese mistresses, dammit? I want to read about Lebanese mistresses!), they're nevertheless entertaining. And without further ado, here they are:
I am highly compelled upon strict recommendation, to write you this very urgent and confidential letter. I am Barrister Dele Martins the lawyer to Mrs. Maryam Abacha the wife of the late Nigerian Head of State General Sani Abacha who died of heart attack on Monday, the 8th of June 1998.Upon the sudden and tragic death of her husband, General Sani Abacha, there has been an intensive but secret exercise by the present civilian government to close/freeze all his bank accounts both home and abroad as he was confirmed to have directed a certain perecntage of oil proceeds totaling over US$500M (Five hundred million United States Dollars) into his private accounts scattered in several accounts of the world, accumulated during his four and half years military rule. An issue that was already on presses before his sudden death. Since this exercise started few months ago, my client who is sill in confinement has been in a very serious agony and mental stress as the entire family has virtually lost everything including landed properties and major investment both home and abroad. Luckily, there happens to be a special security account which my clien deposited a sum of US$50,000,000.00 (Fifty million United States Dollars). This fund in my company's name and is lodged in a Company Security Account Deposits (CSAD) with a West African Sub-Regional Bank. The fear there is that my client is one of the directors and invariably a major shareholder in the company, there exists a possible trace of this fund when once they finish with the account/asset principally owned by her husband, the late Head of State himself. It is therefore on this note that my client have task fully delegated me to quickly source a trustworthy and reliable person/company in your country who will kindly help us to accommodate and safeguard this fund into his account to save us from the calamities of the present clamp on her husband (the ex-president) bank account/assets all over the world. Note that we have concluded arrangements for the release of the aforementioned sum to your bank account within the shortest possible time as soon as we concluded talks. As a result of this and other higher levels of financial transaction which I would want to enter with you as made possible by the death of my client's husband, I am suggesting that we schedule a meeting immediately. Please endeavour to contact me immediately through my private and confidential email. Wether or not this offer is acceptable to you, so as to enable me make other alternative contacts, on the contrary. I await your urgent reply while believing you do understand the confidential nature of this transaction.
STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL
RE: TRANSFER OF US$21.5 MILLION (TWENTY ONE MILLION,
FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS ONLY).
I know this email will reach you as a surprise, but
need not to worry
we are using the only secured and confidential medium
available to seek
for foreign assistance/partnership in a business
transaction which is