Just who falls for the Nigerian Money Scam? My Email Exchange with a Con-man

October 28, 2008

money manBy John Newcomer:

Last week, I noticed a curious email in my in box. After checking with my IT department, and having their assurance that I could open it and respond without fear of compromising our computer system, I began my email conversation with a Nigerian con-man.  

You can read a sampling of the colorful exchanges below.  They provide an inside look at how the scammer lures in victims.

This is nothing other than an internet version of the old Nigerian money scam. It is also known as the 419 scam. 419 refers to the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud. With the assurance from my IT department I decided to see how far the con-man would go in trying to separate me from my hard earned $120. The answer is – really far.

I had more than 42 email exchanges with him. He promised me hundreds of thousands of dollars. I portrayed myself as desperate. I told him that I had lost my home to foreclosure and lost my job. I told him I would have to borrow the money from my grandmother after she went to sleep. I even told him I would meet him in London and buy his plane ticket in order to expedite the process.

The con-man’s responses went from matter-of-fact, to “lucky me,” to “share my windfall with the poor,” to “if he is not telling the truth that God would punish him,” to anger when I told him that I had mailed the check instead of using Western Union, and finally to frustration.

After reading the emails it is hard to believe that anyone would fall for this scam. But the scam has been working for decades. It has been a cottage industry in Nigeria since the 1980’s and it has now spread to Benin (a small African country just south of Nigeria).

Former special agent for the F.B.I., Al Scudieri investigated the scam more than 15 years ago. He said “It turned out that thousands of Nigerians were generating the scam mailings. In fact about half of the profits of the Nigerian post office were related to the mass mailings.”

In 2006, it was reported in the United Kingdom that similar criminals had tricked victims for more than 150 million pounds. In the United States, the latest numbers were more than $100 million dollars lost in the Nigerian scam. (For personal accounts of people falling victim to this scam, read this.)

Do not fall for this scam!! My colleague Terry Smiljanich wrote an article for CWN on the 5 warning signs of a scam. The warning signs are all over this scheme. If you do receive a scam email you should forward it to spam@uce.gov .

Unfortunately, people fall for this everyday.  Misspelled words, hot mail as a return e-mail address, poor grammar, and a mail drop address from a small African country are all clear signs that something is not right.

By the way, Nigeria does not have extradition with the United States so the F.B.I. can’t help. You need to protect yourself. The following is just a sample of how far the Con-man will carry his scam. Read on and be warned:

Dear Friend,

I have been waiting for you to come down here to pick up your Bank Draft since, but I did not hear from you, then I went and deposited the Draft with a ECO BANK,under the care of Fedex because I am traveling to return next month end.

You are to contact fedex BENIN immediately to know when they will deliver your package.

The delivery charges and insurance fee has been paid. The only money you have to send to them is there security keeping fee of $120 to receive your package. Do not be deceived by any body, below is there Contact Information Customer Service Manager,Johnson

Address EMAIL: (deanjohnson_1@hotmail.com) Contact them as soon as possible to avoid increasing the security keeping fee. Finally, you have to reconfirm this information, namely; your complete names, phone number and residence address to them again to avoid any mistake in the delivery.

Provide to them your registration NO.of your package.

Registration No; Eg2272

Code Number::0172157


James Brawn

Let me know as soon as you receive your Bank Draft


Dear John,

Your mail is received but you did not include the security keeping charges of US$ 120, kindly send the money on the name stated bellow so we can have your draft dispatch first thing tomorrow morning.


Country========Benin Reupblic

City======= Cotonou

text Question who is great?


Amount= $120

Address: C/12 Senada AKPakpa Cotonou Benin Republic.

Waiting for the mtcn.

Mr Dean Johnson.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My house just got foreclosed and times are very hard for me. This money is like a present from heaven and will help me and my wife and children. Since I lost my job I do not have a bank account. How can I get the security keeping charge to you? Also how much money is the bank draft? I do not want to spend $120 if the draft is small. I hope it is enough money to get my life back.

Thank you, John

Dear John,

I want to let you know that there is nothing it shall profit a man after gaining the whole world and loose his heart, so simple go and send the money and have your bank draft dispatch first thing tomorrow, as soon as you received it go to any bank of your choice and clear it, the amount is 850,000.my advice is to make sure you help the motherless baby and poor ones. pay the security keeping fee with this name below.

I got the money from my grandmother and will send the $800 for your ticket and the $120 security fee this morning. I got a cheap ticket for London and will leave this afternoon. Because of my credit problems I do not have a cell phone. My lap top is all I have left. My wife is afraid that this is a scam. What can I tell her that this is true.

Thanks and can’t wait to see you John

Try to tell your wife that this is a real business not scam, just send to me the money because i have concluded all my arrangement and i will give you my London number on my arrival to London, i will be waiting to recieved the money and make my move. i will be waiting for the infomation from western union.remember that God will purnish me if you travel to london and you refuse to see me, i will be waiting to received the money because tha is only holding me.to move to London.

OK. I sent the money by US mail express. My plane to London leaves in two hours. I will contact you when I get to London.

Send the money direct to western union office because it is the best way so that i will have it and started my movement to London.

I already put the check in the mail. How do I send it to Western Union?

Just send it through western union to enable me pick it up here in a equivilent to that amount that is only quick means i can pick it up today otherwise through other courrier service will consume more than three days while my schedule time is today 10:30pm so advice western union to convert it on the name below for the payment

I can’t take the money back. The check is in the mail and I have no more money. Please meet me in London and we can go to the bank and I will pay you.

Ok but in ragards of the money you said you sent, because we have no US mail express here in Benin, but what we have here is EMS and PTT and before any parcel will be release. You must have to provid an infomation to identify you as the beneficiary of the parcel.

I made it to London. Very tired and I did not know that they have different money. I am at Paddington station, but hope to find a room soon. Sorry about not using Western Union, but since I addressed the package to you you should be able to provide information to identify yourself. I do have a concern. Is the $850,000 legal? Where did it come from?

When will you arrive in London?

Lon are using Pouds so you can convert the $920 to pounds and send it to me for my ticket why i dont understand the type of business you have in london that makes you not to conclude with me and start moving to london. is like you are not serious in business. i can not understand the type of human being you are, if you are sending the money kindly let me know guy.

I want to let you know that Mr James Brawn who issue the 850,000 made a mistake because in my verification i realise that you are not the original owner of the money but as it is i want us to do the business, this money is legal and safe, all i want you to do is that send me the money for my ticket so that i will start coming to London immidiately and meet with you since the money was issued with your name. stop all this delay so that on my arrival to London we can go to the bank and get it clear immidiately. Mr Dean.