The number of e-mail scams hitting my inbox seems to be dropping off and I’m starting to feel lonely.
I’ve grown to rely on these lovely little pen-pal letters as a way to bolster my ego. How could you not feel good when you find out that your fame as a good and trustworthy person has spread as far as Nigeria? Even more so when it turns out that the general opinion of you out there on the Internet is so high that someone you don’t even know is willing to share millions of dollars with you, just for the privilege of allowing him access to all your banking information so he or she can smuggle their ill-gotten gains out of Nigeria, Iran, the U.S. … wow, you know, sometimes it seems that people in countries all around the world are talking about what an honest guy I am.
But over the last few years, I’ve been disappointed in both the number and quality of the flights of fancy that manage to make it through the bulwarks of spam filters I barricade my email accounts with — in the past, the good ones have always seemed able to make it through the maze with unerring accuracy. And this that do make it through? Well, one recent one only read “Plz respond. I have a business suggestions for you. If interested mail me at the address below.”
That’s hardly worth the half-second it took to read and certainly did absolutely nothing to feed my ego, which like Audrey, the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors, has grown to a monstrous size based on all the lovely lines it has been fed by previous scam writers. And it’s a far cry from the 500-word fairy tales some have sent me. I was starting to wonder what had happened to all the people who formerly were enticing me with tales of secret hoards, diverted international aid, and even Nazi gold.
One favourite, from a marine with US $28 million of stolen money, said he knew he could trust me because “BECAUSE YOU HAVE FEAR OF GOD.” Strange dichotomy there, that I would be willing to take receipt of stolen money through an illegal process, yet still be a god-fearing man. I admit to not having them all memorized perfectly, but wasn’t there something in the ten commandments about thou shalt not steal?
But it turns out I shouldn’t have got worried — three new offers just showed up in my email box, one offering a share of the secret skims of a corrupt Chinese official, another part of the estate of a family-less tsunami victim provided I would pretend to be a long-lost relative. One lady was even offering to name me as her sole heir, an inheritance worth millions, providing I would use it to “spread the word of god.” Wouldn’t it just be easier and safer to leave it to the church or religious mission of your choice?
The Nigerian scam, as it is known, along with all the variants that have been spawned over the years is one of the most popular scams on the Internet, even though — all joking about my ego aside — the stories are so unbelievable. Still, statistics indicate that more than 50,000 people a year fall victim to the Nigerian Scam. Some estimates place the scam as the third most lucrative industry in Nigeria, generating over $5 billion in the last 20 years.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, please don’t do me any favours — I’m not looking to get put on any more scam lists.
Steve Kidd is a journalist who wishes his e-mail address was a little less well-known.
Assistant Regional editor, Black Press
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