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December 03, 2003

Nigerian spam scam. According to the Register, Nigeria is once again cracking down on so-called 419 fraud, setting up a new commission to tackle fraudsters who lure the gullible through emails promising millions of dollars to victims who pay an up-front fee (examples here, here and here).

President Obasanjo is determined to stamp out a fraud he believes is giving Nigeria a bad name, the BBC reports. He has promised "the government will step up measures against these criminal activities."

Apparently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has already recovered 200 million US dollars from fraudsters, with 200 suspects under arrest. But this is a drop in the ocean, if the Register's figures are to be believed. It claims the 419 "industry" earns Nigeria 5 billion dollars a year, making it one of the country's most successful export earners. (You're advised to handle these figures with care!)

Daily Summit remembers an article that Slate published around a year ago, which traces the roots of the 419 fraud back to "The Spanish Prisoner" scam of the 1920s (or even earlier according to a reader).

Author, Brendan Koerner concludes that there may be a silver lining to the fraud - it's helping Nigeria power into the online era:

"The proliferation of cybercafes in Nigeria can be linked directly to the demand supplied by 419ers, who form the establishments' core clientele. Walk into an Internet cafe in Lagos, and chances are that a good percentage of the terminals are occupied by men masquerading as Laurent Kabila's long-lost son or as a rogue official at the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The wiring of Nigeria is being propelled by 419 - much as America's appetite for porn helped shepherd the commercial Internet through its infancy. AOL made it through its lean, early years only because of adult chat rooms and spicy picture downloads (which kept the meter running during the era of per-hour access fees)."

There are those who take a less sanguine view, however - and who are aggressively trying to scam the scammers. Check out this ongoing exchange between a spammer and his victim, who is pretending to be Father Ted from the Church of the Holy Cow.

Father Ted promises to release a small sum of money (say, 274,330 US dollars), but only if the recipient will take the following steps:

"You will need to print out the church logo as large as you can (holycowlogo.jpg). Then you must find either a BOTTLE OF MILK or a CARTON OF MILK. Sit in a chair and place the bottle or carton of milk ON YOUR HEAD and also hold the picture of the CHURCH LOGO. Then get someone to take a photograph of you in this pose. One you have had the photograph taken of yourself with the MILK ON YOUR HEAD and HOLDING THE LOGO, please send it back to me."

David Steven @ December 3, 2003 07:16 PM | TrackBack

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