A creative Nigerian letter

"Nigerian letters" are one of the best known types of Internet scam. Someone you have never heard of will send you an e-mail, offering you a lot of money in return for your help to move an unrealistically large sum of money out of an obscure African state. All you have to do is give your consent and your bank details. Of course, once you have done so, you may find that money has been withdrawn from your account instead of deposited there, and you never hear again from that particular scammer. In other cases, if the scammers are not able to withdraw money right away for some reason, they will ask you to pay a small fee for the bank transfer of the money to your account. After a short time, another request will come, this time a payment for bribing a stubborn bank officer not cooperating, and after that... well, you got the idea. You will continue to pay until you get tired of it. Naturally, the promised sum of money, as well as the large deposit to be moved abroad, never existed. Nigerian letters may also involve business proposals asking you to travel there, and there are several documented cases of would-be foreign businessmen being threatened, beaten, robbed, kidnapped and, in some cases, murdered after their arrival. Variants of Nigerian letters will tell you you have won the first prize in a lottery you never entered (but you will discover in due time that there are fees to pay before you can claim your prize), a large inheritance from an unknown relative, and so on.

At first sight, all these stories and requests would seem to be quite lame (after all, would you trust someone on a street corner offering to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge or US Capitol at a special price?), were it not for the almost unbelievable fact that many fall for the scam and pay, and some are even fool enough to travel to one of those countries to wrap up the "deal".

Nigerian letters owe their name to the fact that writing them seems to have become the favourite occupation of many Nigerians with access to the Internet. Writing Nigerian letters is of course prohibited by Nigerian law (how effectively, we have already seen). Nowadays, a Nigerian letter may come from anywhere and involve financial or business proposals in any third-world country, although Africa is still the primary source. In some recent cases (see the example at the bottom of this page), it would seem that financial gain is no longer the primary goal, and that the originators of these e-mails are simply collecting e-mail addresses to sell to spammers. If you reply to them, even to say you are not interested, they will have confirmation of a real, active e-mail account, which is what they want. Even receiving a higher load of spam, however, is a nuisance better avoided with simple common-sense. Repeat with me: "There is no free lunch".

There are numerous Internet resources dealing with this type of fraud, and the simplest way to cope with a Nigerian letter is to ignore and delete it. If you have the time and necessary knowledge, you may report it to the ISP of the originating domain, although this is less effective than it used to be. These scammers either use free e-mail accounts you can get on-the-spot without any proof of identity, so they will simply get a new one in a couple of minutes once the current one is closed, or (in the more sophisticated cases) relay their e-mail through a network of home or office computers infected with trojan malware, without the knowledge of their owners.

Through the years, I have been contacted by long-lost relatives, bank officers seeking an exceptionally honest, but totally unknown to them, person to safely entrust with large sums of money, princesses in distress, and a varied fauna of relatives of tragically deceased prime ministers and heads of state. All these important persons, of course, were using the type of free e-mail account you can sign for, and immediately begin using, online, and many of them were unable to write proper English. I have also won the first prize of the Irish Lottery at least twice a week in the past two years, plus numerous other international lotteries - a remarkable accomplishment, considering that I never bought any lottery tickets. I have been hand-picked dozens of times as the fiduciary of African miners wanting to sell hundreds of kilograms of gold dust, diamonds, and other precious stones. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive an e-mail informing me that I have been elected president of the United States or pope of the Catholic Church. I wonder why. Maybe I should complain to the White House and Vatican.

This page was prompted by an unusually "creative" Nigerian letter, claiming to offer a financial compensation to earlier victims of Internet scams, and to be signed by an unknown officer on behalf of the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. I am copying the whole e-mail below for your enjoyment. Note, especially:

  1. that the United Nations and World Bank used seven days of their time to talk about compensating unknown victims of Internet scams,
  2. the complete lack of any realistic scope and time-frame: right at the end of their seven-day meeting, a world-wide Internet monitoring system was already in place to collect all scam-related information, and had in fact already completed its task,
  3. that the sender is using a free e-mail address in China, and asking you to reply to a free e-mail address in South Africa,
  4. the all-new United Nations motto: "Making the world a better place", and
  5. the tell-tale misspellings, typing errors and style errors - these guys obviously have never written a business letter, except for spam.
    Naturally, I blanked out details of my own e-mail account.

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Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2008 13:53:14 +0800
From: "Felix Brown" <pswann@kangba.com>
Reply-To: "Felix Brown" <felixbrown@jmail.co.za>
Subject: Un Compensation For Scam Victims
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Re:Allevaiting The Sufferings Of Scam Victims
Dear Sir,
How are you today?i hope you are ok.I know that this message will come to you as a surprise.We at the United Nations have just finished a seven-day meeting with representatives of member countries and other stake holders concerning the issue of internet scams as regards alleviating the sufferings of those that have falling victims already.In other to know these victims,we developed a computer software called INTERNET SCAMS MONITORING SECURITY SYSTEM (ISMSS).This security system tracks Scams communications and the email addresses of those that have falling victim.That is email addresses of individuals/companies that have lost monies to this scammers.
To our utmost surprise,we discovered that millions of people have falling victim, having lost all their hard-earned money.To this effect we now decided to compensate them with US$500,000.00 each in other to alleviate their sufferings.On this note,we compiled email addresses of these individuals/companies in other to pay them this money.Among the email addresses tracked by our security system is your email address.
We have prepared a certified bank draft valued at US$500,000.00 in your favour,all you will have to do now is to contact our representative in Africa with the below information for your draft
Name:Mr Adamu Bello
You will have to supply him with your Full name,country,phone number,fax number and mailing address where your draft will be sent to.Your email address have already been sent to him,so he will be expecting your message.
Do notify me once you do this.
Dr Felix Brown
Ban Ki-Moon.


@MuYa.cn @kangba.com @gzz.com.cn @gzz.net.cn

Tired and bored of writing spam?

The following example of lottery spam e-mail shows a clear lack of enthusiasm. I agree that it must be boring and lackluster to write e-mails telling unknown people that they have won the first prize of a non-existing lottery, hour after hour, day in and day out, without any variety, knowing that between 100,000 and 1,000,000 e-mails must be sent before a lost soul eventually will decide to answer a single one. My suggestion to the writers of this and similar spam if that, if you are soooo bored, you should rather find another way to spend your time. There simply must be a better way to earn some money. Otherwise, the less enthusiasm you put into writing spam, the less your returns will be - unless, of course, you are being paid by the number of e-mails you write, not for their quality or the number of responses. In this case, by all means do continue to write bored-to-death messages like the following one, which will fail to attract the attention of even an equally bored reader.

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From: Irish News Center <jalmir@sympatico.ca>
To: ...@sympatico.ca
Subject: End Of The Year Award

Batch: 12/25/0304

You have won 1,350,000.00. send the following: name,Age,Sex,Country

Email: lotteryoffice01@btinternet.com

Dr.Anthony Chognot

The winner

Talking of Nigerian letters, if the text at the following link should turn out to be a true Nigerian letter, it would be my candidate for the all-time first prize for creativity. Unfortunately, it is likely a hoax. However, if the author of the following text can prove to me he/she is the author, and that he/she really sent it as a Nigerian letter, I solemnly promise to devolve to him/her the first prize of the English Lottery I just won today (less administrative expenses and taxes, to be paid to me in advance):

analdwelling-rebel-martians This "letter" has been copied to several other web sites and bulletin boards, and there is no way to know how and where it originated. This poor fellow is stranded on Mars, dying as a result of tortures by sexually deviant Martians, and in urgent need of your help to devolve to charity a large sum of money stored in his account on Earth.

The above link is dead, but one copy of the letter is available here.

Further example

Another Nigerian letter from my collection (which I keep in my e-mail trash bin) is worth of mention as an example. It contains the following paragraph:

This is the final notice you are going to receive from this office,do you get me?I  hope you understand how many times this message has been sent to you.

My first reaction was "Thank goodness, I will never hear from them again". Albeit, I have no high hopes that they will keep their word. Among other thing of notice are:

  • The lack of spaces after punctuation marks
  • The mix of official-sounding language (the kind you are likely to read in commercial correspondence) and nearly slang expressions (the kind more likely to be shouted by a backstreet thug)

Both are common hallmarks of poor-quality spam.

You can find many links about Nigerian letters and their overall economic impact on national economies here. It seems Nigerian letters have been the flagship export product of Nigeria for quite some years and the primary export of Nigeria besides oil, although they are by no means originating only from this country.

More about Nigerian letters on this site: