Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Casting Pearls Before Swine: Fun With Spam Scams

The rule of thumb for spam email is to delete each offending piece immediately, no matter how tempting it is to reply and ask to be taken off the spammers’ mailing list. Replying to spam, as we all know, confirms that there’s someone at your email address, which will then be sold to other spammers as “a live one.”

I have a Yahoo email account I never use, but since there’s a slim chance that someone might see me playing online Scrabble and want to contact me there, I go in and check it out every once in a while. Every time I do, I find that Yahoo has diverted about 10,000 spams into the junk drawer. Occasionally, though, a bit of spam flops into my regular inbox, where it promptly gets disposed of without a read.

Except that sometimes I can’t resist reading the Nigerian scam letters. They’re persistent, those Nigerians (or those pseudo-Nigerians—they might be from Kansas, for all I know). They’re persistent and creative, but the basic story is always the same: Somebody has died in a tragic accident, leaving upwards of $10 million in a Nigerian bank. If the sender can’t find someone to make a legitimate claim for it, the government will take it and use it for some sort of shady military operation. And if I make the claim, the sender will keep a certain percentage for himself as a finder’s fee.

By my estimate, I have right around a trillion dollars waiting for me in various Nigerian banks. Furthermore, there are only about 14 people left alive in Nigeria, as the entire rest of the population has been killed in a tragic car accident.

I have, at times, replied to the spammer and suggested he take my share of the money and invest it in Nigerian road improvements.

I only reply to the spam that comes to my Yahoo account, figuring that account is a lost cause anyway, and the only reason I do it then is to amuse myself. Last night I accidentally came up with a reply I’m happy to share with all twos of my readers, in case they’re ever in a similar mood.

The spam that got my attention was from a guy with the unlikely name of Goodness Egobiaram. The subject was “Hello Donovan” (which I couldn’t help reading in a snide Jerry Seinfeld voice) and here’s what Goodness had to say (verbatim):

Dear Donovan:

I am a senior Accountant in my Bank and Accounting officer to Mr. Arthur Donovan who was a contractor with the Federal government of Nigeria. On the 21st of April 2001, my customer, his wife and their two children were involved in auto-crash along the ever busy Sagumu-Ibadan Highway. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. Since then, the Board of Directors of my Bank have made several enquires to their embassy to locate any of my customer’s extended relations but to no avail. Hence the need to contact you since you share the same family name.

I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and Property left behind by my client before they get Confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this Huge deposits of US$10M was lodged.

The Bank has published several Notice for the Next of Kin of the deceased to apply for collection of this Funds or have the account confiscated within a shot Period of time.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the Next of kin of the deceased, so that the proceeds of this Account valued at US 10 million dollars can be paid to you and Then you and me can share the money, 60% to me and 40% to you.

I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to backup any claim we may make. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable this deal through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate Arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the Law. Please get in touch with my email and send to me your Telephone and fax numbers to enable us further about this Transaction.

Best regards,
Mr Goodness Egobiaram
Senior Accountant
Intercontinental Bank, PLC
Lagos, Nigeria

Now, as comforting as it to know that this arrangement will protect me from any breach of the law (if not from random capital letters), I decided to decline Mr Egobiaram’s kind offer. But because I was in the mood to have some fun, I wrote him back so he wouldn’t feel bad about my ingratitude.

Dear Goodness—

I have great news for you. Are you sitting down? Arthur Donovan is still alive!

Despite what the newspaper accounts said, Arthur survived the car crash and crawled to a nearby farmhouse for help. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that there were four bodies in the car, and you’re right. But the victim identified as Arthur was in reality his long-lost twin brother Albert!

That’s right. Everybody believes Albert was killed in that tragic plane crash in 1998 (the one that prompted his solicitor, a Mr Goodness Gracious, to offer me the cool $5 million in Albert’s secret bank account). The truth, however, is that Albert wasn’t actually aboard the plane! He paid a homeless man $25 to board that flight (for reasons I think we’re both well aware of), and then of course the pilot—actually Arthur’s trusted valet, Steven Mogumbo—ejected with his parachute right before the plane crashed into that mountain.

Anyway—Arthur survived the car wreck, but I should warn you that his face was badly burned. He’s had plastic surgery, but now instead of looking like the Arthur Donovan you loved so well, he now resembles a young Elton John. I’ve informed him about the money, so you can be expecting him to show up and claim it himself within the week. Please be discreet. If You-Know-Who and his minions find out Arthur is alive, they'll stop at nothing to get their hands on that cash. If only Arthur had resisted the temptation to get involved in the Johannesburg Affair--but of course, he always did have an eye for the long-legged diamond smugglers.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It makes me happy to know that the money will soon be in the hands of its rightful owner!

Yours truly,

PS—If funds are available, I’m pretty sure Arthur would be amenable to renaming that fatal stretch of the Sagumu-Ibadan Highway after his late brother. If it causes just one of the few remaining Nigerians to drive a little safer on that road, it’ll be worth it.

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