November 18, 2002
ADD NIGERIA TO THE AXIS OF EVIL:The Nigerian nightmare: Who's sending you all those scam emails? (Brendan Koerner, 11/17/02, Colorado Springs Independent)
This swindle is commonly known as "419 fraud," after the section of the Nigerian penal code covering cons.
According to the anti-spam software vendor Brightmail, 419 come-ons are the Web's second-most common form of junk mail, ranking behind only those incessant "herbal Viagra" ads.
Though most people merely laugh at the pleas' awful grammar and all-caps style ("I WILL LIKE YOU CONTACT MY LAWYER ..."), about 1 percent of recipients actually respond.
Of that number, enough people fork over enough cash to sustain an industry that ranks in Nigeria's top five, right up there with palm oil and tin. The U.S. Secret Service has estimated -- conservatively, by its own admission -- that the scammers net $100 million per year.
The scam is experiencing a digitally aided heyday, but 419's roots stretch back to the Jazz Age. It's an Africanized version of "The Spanish Prisoner," a classic 1920s scheme in which suckers were convinced that a wealthy scion was rotting in a Barcelona jail.
Front some cash to win his freedom, and you'd be amply rewarded for your troubles. Or not.
These people must be stopped. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2002 1:31 PM