Sunday, April 26, 2015

The innocent beauty of the scam artist





     I have never been to Nigeria. But I imagine, beneath the poverty and the desperate scramble to scrape a living out of scarce resources, there is a certain sweetness there, which I can gleam even through its scam attempts to rob me via email.
     Now, I have no idea whether email scams are all from Nigeria, or even if most are. That's supposedly a center, but who knows? That's where I imagine them as originating, in windowless cinderblock warehouses with corrugated metal roofs, tapped out on cast-off computers by lanky, glassy-eyed teenagers, in tattered cast-off t-shirts that arrive in massive bundles in the holds of container ships. Particularly this one.
     I don't spend my days reading scam emails. Just hit "empty trash" and be done with it. , But I will scan my spam filter, though this one somehow slid around the filter and actually showed up in my "Inbox" a few Sundays ago. It reads, in its entirety: 

Dearest Friend,
How are you today, am sure you are doing well? I was wondering if I can know you better?
I am Colonel Marcus Luthan, of the U.S.Army presently working in Afghanistan. I saw your profile and sincerely wished to know you better and would like to have a good relationship with you..I have great plans for both of us, if you are interested please reply for more future communication and details. Also tell me more about yourself and your nationality
I will tell you more about my intentions when I receive your reply. Have a nice time and remain blessed. I will be happy to read from you, you can write me with my following email address: marcusslut@gmail.com , for more secured communication.
Thanks
      If I were teaching writing, I might save it for a lesson on "voice." Because the writing is not  so much incorrect, grammatically, as it is totally wrong in tone. No U.S. Army colonel could write three paragraphs like that if he tried for a day. 
      Even before you get to the give-away emails: marcusslut@gmail.com -- which is either "Marcus" misspelled, or with a middle initial, to make it look even more real, not knowing that it would scan, to an American eye, as "Marcus Slut" -- unless of course that reveals a side business, for days when nobody's biting on your email lures.
    Someone must fall for these scams -- you send out enough, and nibbles come in, and eventually money is being sent to you through Western Union or Paypal or Bitcoin or whatever the savvy scammer uses nowadays. The very aged, perhaps, or those whose greed far outstrips their intelligence. And I don't want to romanticize or apologize for them—real people are hurt, stripped of their savings, and the attempt reflects a desperate need that is neither sweet nor funny. 
    But the naïveté, the innocence of it, if you can be an innocent scam artist. It's almost beautiful.  I had to share it. I actually had to write him back, and see where it went, but the subsequent form letter attempts to extract more data from me didn't share the perfection of the original message. 





14 comments:

  1. I've heard that some scammers deliberately make their pitches obvious to 98% of us, so that replies are always from the clueless and vulnerable.

    John

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  2. Now your email will be passed to more scammers.

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  3. The traditional form of the Nigerian 419 scam, was to imply a large sum of money was available if the victim agrees to participate in fraudulent activity. These letters are designed to screen for greedy, immoral people, who are naïve. One of the highest profile victims was documented by Kurt Eichenwald in his 2000 book "The Informant". He suggests Mark Whitacre lost money in a Nigerian advance fee fraud, and started embezzling money from Archer Daniels Midland, to make up for his losses. I've come to believe W.C. Fields' old expression are words to live by, "You can't cheat an honest man."

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  4. Neil, does this mean that I am not actually going to receive in my account, the lost treasure from the ex-Nigerian oil minister's account? His son wrote me that he would split the $49 million with me if I only sent him my name, bank account number, password, mother's maiden name, date of birth, address, and a small $49 deposit charged to my credit card to pay processing and handling. I'm really counting on that money to buy this bridge in Brooklyn that another correspondent wants to sell me. I don't think either of these guys can be crooks, since they ended their emails, "in Christ's blessed name."

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  5. I AM a robot. I think it is rude that, in order to get my comment published, I have to prove that I "am not a robot." How would you like it if my website required you to prove that you are not a human? Inquiring minds wanna know.

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  6. I have a collection of these - a couple hundred going back seven years. They are the source material for my book, "I Await Your Positive Reply."

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  7. The worst scam attempt I ever saw was from somebody pretending to be Citibank or some such place, except that he put his own name, IN RUSSIAN, in the "From" line.

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    Replies
    1. The older Russian email scams always asked for your internal passport number, something that was required only in the Soviet Union & a few other communist dictatorships.

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  8. Just a reminder that Nigeria has 170 million people - the "email scammer per 1000 citizen" ratio may well be higher here than it is there!

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  9. What's with the spider web pic?

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    Replies
    1. oh never mind, I get it, spider and the fly, trapped with scam

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  10. I had thus very same message come to me this morning...it's nit the first scammer I've had and im sure it won't be the last...my first thought is always why would an intelligent military man be trolling thru dating websites...I always try to get them banned from the site and block them from being able to communicate with me.
    Just Trish

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