Nigerian Letter Scam

There has been a resurgence in an old con game recently, although it has apparently morphed from a typewritten letter into more modern email form. A number of years ago, when I was at Duke, I received a hand-addressed personal letter from Nigerian officials requesting my help in exporting some large sums of money to offshore accounts. It was manually typed on very thin paper and signed with a flourish, while the postmark and stamp verified that it was overseas correspondence.

Of course, the very British hyper-polite prose assured me that I would be paid handsomely for my relatively small role in this philanthropic endeavor, which would be to simply hold the money in my bank account for a few weeks. I was welcome to whatever interest accrued during this period, and then would simply transfer the millions on to its final destination when instructed to do so. All it would take to aid these democratic officials was to wire them my account number so the funds could be transferred forthwith.....

Since this sounded way too good to be true, I presumed it was a hoax and filed the letter away as a souvenir. Apparently, in other variations on this scheme, you are asked to give a credit card number or to make a "good faith" payment to cover the costs of wiring the millions, and this is now so well known that it has been formally named the Nigerian Letter Scam.

Should other US citizens receive such a letter or email, we are now asked not to respond in any way but instead to go to and fill out the Financial Crimes Division Comment Form, or to write "No financial loss - for your database" and fax it to the US Secret Service at 202-406-6930.

Return to January 2001 Corner

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