A Nigerian letter from Spain

Nigerian letters don't come exclusively from Nigeria, although this country still plays a large role in this "industry". Therefore, a Nigerian letter from Spain is not exceptional. Incidentally, the idea behind Nigerian letters and other advance-fee scams is at least as old as the Spanish Prisoner scam of the 19th century. In a geographic sense, this Spanish Nigerian letter is a return to origins. What makes this letter unusual is that it came to me as a paper letter by ordinary (snail) mail. It may be interesting to examine its characteristics.

The choice of sending this letter on paper may show the desperation of these guys, who have to send out millions of similar letters by e-mail before anyone ever answers. However, fraud by ordinary mail is as old as the postal service itself, and has a long tradition of different types of scams.

The envelope is a paper envelope with a regularly cancelled postage stamp (from Malaga) and a transparent window for the destinatary address (printed on the letter), which in itself shows that these guys are too lazy to write separate envelopes and match them with the right letters. It is satisfying to me to think that these guys did waste money on the postage stamp (0.75€). Hardly surprising, there is no sender on the envelope.

The letter itself is printed on a color inkjet printer. The sender's name is given as Maria XXXXXX (the family name is the same as the destinatary's family name, to make the letter somewhat credible). I know enough not to write my own address here, so I blanked out the family name and my address in the above image.

The OCRd text of the letter follows, to make it easier to read and searchable by web content indexes:

San Juan de Dioa 13 02400 Hellin Albacete Spain
Telephone: 0034 631 228 562
Email: ma_ria2006@hotmail.com


I am writing this letter in tears as I ask for your immediate assistance.
My name is Maria XXXXXX and I was told by my late mother that I came from the XXXXXX family in your country.
My mother relocated to Spain when I was only 4 years old and she suffered from a long time Pancreatic Cancer before her death in 2006.
After the death of my mother, I was abducted by a Spanish family whose responsibility was to take care of me and hand over my late mother's properties when I grew up.

The family here has taken the property that belongs to my late mother and changed it to their names. They have threatened to deal with me if I ask for the properties of my late mother or ifl say anything to anybody.
I have been leaving in fear for my life as I do not have anybody to help me.

However, what they do not know is that my mother willed a sum of €5.2 Million Euro (Five Million, Two Hundred Thousand Euro) to me before her death and gave the document to a lawyer whom she asked to assist me receive the fund from the bank whenever I would need the fund.

I have spoken with the lawyer and he advises me to contact a relation of my mother who can assist me to receive the money so as to avoid problem with my abducted family here.
This is the reason why I decided to contact you. I need you to please help me to receive this €5.2 Million Euro from the bank. The lawyer has all the documents and will also help us with other legal documents which the bank might need to transfer the money to you.

Please when you receive this money, I need you to take the sum of€3, Million Euro only and keep the balance of the money for me.
As soon as you receive this money, I shall come over to your country so that you can assist me to go back to school and start a new life.
You can reach me on the telephone number above or you can send me an email so that I can introduce you to the lawyer.

I thank you for your understanding and your help in advance while I wait to hear from you.


Ms. Maria XXXXXX

The story in the letter is no different from thousands of similar Nigerian letters sent every day through the Internet. Nothing special here. Once you have seen a few, you recognize them all. This letter is slightly more personalized by adding the intended victim's name a few times, but this is easily done with a simple script that goes through a list of mail addresses and writes "personalized" letters. Nothing different from the "personalized" publicity ads that have been around for decades.

The sender's address is given as Maria XXXXXX, San Juan de Dioa 13, 02400 Hellin Albacete Spain, phone 0034 631 228 562. If you are in the area, you may wish to call them or pay a visit there. There is no "San Juan de Dioa" in Hellin, but there is a Calle San Juan de Dios 13, where businesses, including a dental clinic, are registered. A slightly different phone number traces back to the General Hospital in Albacete. The e-mail address is (somewhat predictably) ma_ria2006@hotmail.com - just the kind of address a crook would get in the hope of avoiding being traced. I don't think that these guys are so monumentally stupid that they are using a working post address, so it is very likely that any letter mailed to the above address will be returned as undeliverable, and that the e-mail address is the only working way to contact them. After all, who would bother to send a reply by letter when you can send it by e-mail?

The choice of a female fictional character is also natural. A woman can be, instinctively, regarded as less likely to be playing a scam, and more likely to elicit feelings of compassion in the intended victim. However, I have had my share of daughters of deceased Nigerian foreign ministers and African princesses in distress.

Note that these guys wrote "I was told by my late mother that I came from the XXXXXX family in your country". Again, they are a bit too generic to be credible. I spent most of my adult life in four different countries and shorter periods in a dozen more countries, none of which is my country of origin, so what is my country?

The English language standards of these guys have improved, compared to typical Nigerian letters. They must have realized that a nearly illiterate ex Prime Minister or President's daughter is not very credible. However, guys, you don't say "I have been leaving in fear for my life". The word you want is "living". You also don't say "receive the fund from the bank". It is "funds". And there are more giveaways.

The signature is an obvious problem for these guys. It either has to be completely illegible (so that they can use it with any actual name) or it can say "Maria" but nothing more should be legible (because the family name of the sender is of course "personalized" and the same as the addressee's family name). Our guys chose the second alternative.

A closer look, however, shows that the signature is a poor quality scan printed out on an inkjet printer like the rest of the letter.

In conclusion, it is hard to think how anyone would fall for this scam. Just in case, I am making this information publicly available on my site.