Computing Tips: “Nigerian Letter” and “Spanish Prisoner” – 16th Century Scam Updated in 21st Century

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You should arrange for your email program to delete automatically these scam/spam emails sent to you directly. Click these link to learn about

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Why am I getting so much #%! spam ?!

If the spam/scam emails come via the AmCham web site, you may request the AmCham webmaster to restrict access.

Advance Fee Fraud

One common category of scam email is called the advance fee fraud. It comes as an offer from a relative of a “high level political or business leader” in an African country, who has “millions of dollars” in hiding, but needs your assistance to get the money out of Africa. You (the target) are offered a percent of the total to provide your assistance in transferring the money.

If you respond, you (the target) are persuaded to advance relatively small sums of money in the hope of realizing a much larger gain.

Among the variations on this type of scam are the Nigerian Letter Scam (419 fraud) that dates back to the 1980s, and used to be conducted by sending letters, telexes, or faxes. It is based on an even older scam dating back to 1588, known as The Spanish Prisoner scam, where a fictitious prisoner would promise to share treasure with the person who would send them money to bribe their guards.

The Nigerian Letter Scam (419 fraud) originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based economy of Nigeria went downhill. Several unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the west, and later the wider population. Early variants were often sent via letter, fax, or even Telex. The spread of email and easy access to “email-harvesting software” made the cost of sending scam letters through the Internet extremely cheap. In the 2000s, the Nigerian Letter (419 scam) has spurred imitations from other locations in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Clearly, these emails are dangerous to those who are fooled into thinking they can get something for nothing.

You should just set up your computer email program to delete them automatically.

Read more …

Consumers Now Target of Nigerian Letter Scams The Better Business Bureaus has been warning businesses for several years not to be tempted by fraudulent letters from Nigeria that offer get-rich-quick schemes. The so-called “Nigeria Letter scam” has been around since the early 1990s, scamming businesses nationwide out of millions of dollars. Although small businesses, churches and non-profit organizations have been the primary target, consumers are reporting that these letters are now showing up in their mailboxes at home.

Nigerian Letter Scams Go High Tech “Now that the Nigerian letter scam has gone high-tech and is being perpetrated via fax machines and e-mails, it’s more critical than ever that we educate business owners and managers to this scam,” said James L. Bast, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., the umbrella organization for the nation’s BBBs. “If you receive an offer from a stranger who promises a large payoff in return for assisting in transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria or any other country, ignore it.”

The “Nigerian” Scam: Costly Compassion If you’re tempted to respond to an offer, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests you stop and ask yourself two important questions: Why would a perfect stranger pick you — also a perfect stranger — to share a fortune with, and why would you share your personal or business information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead, with someone you don’t know? And the U.S. Department of State cautions against traveling to the destination mentioned in the letters. According to State Department reports, people who have responded to these “advance-fee” solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.

The Art of the Grift: Lesson #3. Short and Long Cons Firstly, a con (also called swindle, hustle, scam, or grift) works by using the mark’s (victim’s) own greed to lure money or valuables away from him/her. There is a widely known maxim in the world of the grift that “You can’t cheat an honest man.” A “short con” is an opportunistic scam to take the mark for all the money on his/her person. One of the most common forms of short cons is the “pigeon drop.” A “long con,” sometimes known as a “big con,” is a much more ‘plannified,’ complex con, intended to take the mark for a substantial portion of his/her net worth. Now, the Spanish Prisoner con is a simple, but highly lucrative long con. It is widely recognized as the oldest known long con, having originated in England in the late 16th century. In this, its original form, the mark is approached by the grifter with a convincing story about a wealthy compatriot held prisoner in Spain (hence the name). Click the link to read more.

Salon: “I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash)” Some poor souls do fall for the scam. I’ve fallen for the writing, the plots (fragmented as they are), the characters, the earnest, alluring evocations of dark deeds and urgent needs, Lebanese mistresses, governments spun out of control, people abruptly “sacked” for “official misdemeanors” and all manner of other imaginative details all delivered in a prose style that is as awkward and archaic as it is enchanting. It’s some of the most entertaining short fiction around these days. Even the U.S. Secret Service, which would very much like to put the kibosh on the 419 writers workshop, concedes that the letters “are often very creative and innovative.”

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