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Chaos Manor Special Reports

The Nigerian and other Scams

Thursday, August 23, 2001

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The BYTE Fiasco


This began when I received about nine copies of an email that assumed I was an idiot: that my reputation was so great that someone would trust me with $36 million bucks.




 I posted it with remarks:

I keep getting this or a variant on it, and I wonder: has anyone ever bitten on this? Is there anyone naive enough to fall for this?  Alas, alas...

Dear Sir,


Firstly, I must solicit your strictest confidentiality in this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly CONFIDENTIAL and TOP SECRET. Though I know that a transaction of this magnitude will make anyone apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that all will be well at the end of the day. We have decided to contact you first by your email due to the urgency of this transaction, as we have been reliably informed that it will take at least two to three weeks for a normal post to reach you. So we decided it is best using the email.

Let me start by first introducing myself properly to you. I am DrZuma Idrisa, a director general in the Petroleum Ministry and I head a Six-man tender board in charge of Contracts Awards and payment Approvals. I came to know of you in my search for a reliable and reputable person to handle a very confidential business transaction which involves the transfer of a huge sum of money to a foreign account requiring maximum confidence. I and my colleagues are top officials of the Federal Government Contract Review and Award Panel. Our duties include evaluation, vetting, approval for payment of contract jobs done for the Petroleum Ministry, etc. In order to commence this business, we solicit for your assistance to enable us transfer into your account the said funds.

The source of this funds is as follows: During the last military regime here in Nigeria, this committee awarded a contract of US$400,000,000.00 (Four Hundred Million United States Dollars) to five construction firms on behalf of the Petroleum Ministry for the supply, construction and installation of Oil Pipeline from Warri to PortHarcourt. During this process my colleagues and I decided amongst ourselves to deliberately over-inflate the total contract sum to US$436,500,000.00 (Four Hundred and Thirty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) with the main intention of sharing the remaining sum of US$36,500,000.00 (Thirty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) amongst ourselves. The Federal Government of Nigeria has since approved the sum of US$436,500,000.00 (Four Hundred and Thirty Six Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) for us as the contract sum, and the sum of US$400,000,000.00 (Four Hundred Million United States Dollars) has also been paid to the foreign contractors concerned as contract entitlements for the contract done, but since each of the companies is entitled to US$80,000,000.00 only, we are now left with US$36,500,000.00 balance in the account which we intend to transfer abroad into a safe and reliable account to be disbursed amongst ourselves, but by virtue of our positions as civil servants and members of this panel, we cannot do this by ourselves, as we are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening / operating foreign accounts in our names, making it impossible for us to acquire the money in our names. I have, therefore, been mandated as a matter of trust by my colleagues in the panel to look for an overseas partner into whose account we would transfer the sum of US$36,500,000.00 (Thirty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars), hence we are writing you this letter.

My colleagues and I have agreed that if your company can act as the beneficiary of this funds on our behalf, you or your company will retain 20% of the total amount of US$36,500,000.00 (Thirty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars), while 70% will be for us (members of this panel) and the remaining 10% will be used in offsetting all debts/expenses incurred (both local and foreign) in the cause of this transfer. Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return we demand your complete honesty and trust. You must however, NOTE that this transaction will be strictly based on the following terms and conditions as we have stated below, as we have heard confirmed cases of business associates running away with funds kept in their custody when it finally arrive their accounts. A very good and recent example is the one of Mr. Peter Hopwood, the President of Mileage Trading and Investment Company at Number 121, West 55th Street, 21st Floor, New York 10022, and former Chairman of OMPADEC (Mr. Patrick Opia), who we were reliably informed that after the agreement between both partners in which he was to take 15% of the money, while the remaining 85% for Nigerian Officials. With all the required documents signed, the money was duly transferred into his account, only to be disappointed on their arrival in New York and were informed that Mr. Peter Hopwood was no longer on that address, while his telephone and fax numbers have been re-allocated to somebody else. This was how they lost US$18.5 Million to Mr. Hopwood. This is a very recent story here in my country and everybody is aware of this, some of the officials decided to cry out and face the law, because they felt they had lost too much to a stranger, while the Chairman of OMPADEC (Mr. Patrick Opia) is hiding in a foreign country. So right now we are taking all precautionary measures to guard against re-occurrence of such act in our case. This is why we have decided that this transaction will be based completely on the following:

(a). Our conviction of your transparent honesty and diligence.

(b). That you would treat this transaction with utmost secrecy and confidentiality.

(c). That upon receipt of the funds, you will promptly release our share (70%) on demand after you have removed your 20% and all expenses have been settled.

(d). You must be ready to produce us with enough information about yourself to put our minds at rest.

Please, note that this transaction is 100% legal and risk free and we hope to conclude the business in Seven Bank working days from the date of receipt of the necessary information and requirement from you.

Please, acknowledge the receipt of this letter using my email address. I will bring you into the complete picture of the transaction when I have heard from you.

Your urgent response will be highly appreciated as we are already behind schedule for this financial quarter.

Thank you and God bless.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Zuma Idrisa.

N.B.: Please, be reminded that this business transaction is 100% legal and risk free.

__________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Make international calls for as low as $.04/minute with Yahoo! Messenger

P T Barnum may have made a serious underestimate if this works... And see below.

Things went on from there, until there was enough that it threatened to take over the mail page, so I have opened this special report.

Now this:

Dear Dr. P.

Some one must be biting on these things, there are so many of them. Here's a link to a site that keeps track of the multitude of Nigerian email scams. 

Your exact letter does not appear to be there, but there are some quite similar in detail.

I recall seeing an apparently legitimate news report that there have been several kidnappings and at least one death attributed to these email gangsters. Can't put my hands on it just now. . . more if I can find the site.


I thought someone might be keeping track. Thanks

Dr. Pournelle:

This and many other email scams are discussed on the Urban Legends Reference Pages, .

Unfortunately, the default is lots of graphics and frames and such that tax my ad filters, but I find Ms. Mikelson's site otherwise useful whenever someone insists that opening an email will cause my dryer to eat socks.

As if my dryer needed any help.


-- Charles Krug, Jr. Systems Engineer

Dr. P.

This link goes to a page detailing how these scams work, and provides links to the Secret Service homepage and a page by the State Department providing more information.

Both the Secret Service page and the State Department page verify at least one American had been murdered in Nigeria, a victim of one of these "419" scams. The 419 refers to the section of the Nigerian penal code dealing with fraud. A number of people, Americans and Europeans, have been reported missing.

The author of the above page is a Jay D. Adkisson, a lawyer specializing, according to what I find via a google search, in financial planning and asset protection. He claims the Nigerian government _can't_ crack down on the proliferation of these scams because they constitute the third largest segment of the Nigerian economy.

FWIW, Adkisson seems to be the subject of a lot of irate messages by folks who don't appear to speak English as their first language, and who seem to have email addresses in places I've never heard of. He's mentioned favorably in this Forbs article:

Tim Morris

re: More links to information on the "Nigeria 419 scam"

Salon has an interesting overview on "The Nigerian Scam"  <>

The information page that they point to ("rica") is below. I think that "rica" gives a better overview and a better collection of information than the Quatloos link that your first correspondent provided. I spent some time diving through the links looking for a factoid that I vaguely remembered but was completely unable to find. I am sure that I heard that some astonishing percentage of the entire Nigerian foreign exchange (perhaps 16%) was coming from these scams. I am sorry that I cannot find a good cite for that remembered figure.

The page that Salon points to as the general clearinghouse on the "419" scam is  <> The clearinghouse page includes an email address at the US Secret Service task force that is handling this issue. The email address is  <> but go through the rica page for detailed instructions.

The rica page has a page of links at  <> . One of those goes to  <> with the US Secret Service requesting a copy of the invitation letter, even if you did not bite.

The salon page and a few of the others also link to a novel "Game Over" based on the scam 

Greg Goss

All of which overwhelms me, because I can't imagine anyone intelligent enough to use a computer falling for any of this. And I am usually accused of having too low an opinion of my fellow citizens...

My attitude is best expressed by

Dear Jerry:

That "Nigerian" letter was one of the funniest things you've ever posted - I laughed out loud the whole way through! Thanks for the guffaws.

They say con men succeed by playing to your greed, but I have a hard time imagining exactly how greedy you'd need to be to believe total strangers wanted to give you 20% of (Thirty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars)!

I didn't get 36 point 5 million laughs, but close...


Tim Loeb

Ah well. One born ever second now?


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Thought you might find this link interesting. This is the Department of State Travel Warnings website, but it contains an extensive PDF document on the Nigerian fraud you keep receiving. It is really rather interesting, although very sad to think that there are that many truly ignorant and greedy people out there. 


Bill Hamilton

And it isn't always funny I suppose. Or not merely funny.

Regarding the letter from Nigeria in yesterday's Mail, this is a publicized and seriously dangerous scam. Check out  for details, and instructions on reporting the scam to the US Treasury Department.

-- -------- Tom Almy

o o o o

Here one of the letters from the ivory coast

Andy, Gina, George y Drew

-----Original Message----- From: agbor adg  Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 10:19 AM


From: Mrs Josephine Momoh Tel: 225 07 88 33 22 Amina Hotels Abidjan, Coted'ivoire.

In brief introduction, I'm Mrs Josephine Momoh from Sierra-Leone. My husband Mr Christopher Momoh was the former operations manager of the Sierra Leone Gold and Diamond cooperation during the tenure of the democratically elected head of state president Ahmed Tijan Kabbah who was forced out of office by the rebels led by major Paul Koromah.As a result of the otherthrow, top government officials and top civil servants who the rebel soldiers captured at the mining town of Bangashi district where he was in charge, may his gentle soulrest in peace.

After the assassination of my late husband Mr Christopher Momoh of Blessed Memory. I was busy ransacking his book sheeves, incidentially, I found a key to his underground safe in his family villa. Upon my opening to his undergroud safe, I was surprised to notice among other things 2 big trunk boxes which contained the sum of US$18.5million (Eighteen Million Fivehundred thousand).

I contacted my late husband friend who operated a fishing trawlers vessels through noble assistance, I and my family were smuggled out to Abidjan through costal river with the sealed trunk boxes containing the money.

On our arrival, I decided to deposit these boxes in a private security company here in Abidjan for safe custody.

Right now, your cooperation is highly needed to assist me lift these fund out of the security company to abroad for onward transafer. This is strictly on your advice in areas like real estate and stock markets or any other business you deem viable. Your compensation for this noble assistance is quite negotiable, for now 10% of this money stand as your commission for immediate transfer of this fund.

Please your assistance is highly needed and your urgent reply indicating your interest through the above contacts. Furthermore my evidence of the deposit of this sealed trunk boxes in the security company will be furnished to you as soon as I receive your reply.

Please treat this transaction as confidential for this is the hope of my family's survivals, now that the bread winner is no more. Every correspondences should be directed to my son Mr Titi Momoh on his phone 225 07 88 33 22 for more information and clarification.

Thanks and yours sincerely,

Mrs Josephine Momoh.

NB; Please, call me or my son immediately as soon as you receive this mail for more details on +225 07 88 33 22


> All of which overwhelms me, because I can't imagine anyone intelligent enough to use a computer falling for any of this. And I am usually accused of having too low an opinion of my fellow citizens...

Well, put it on a Venn diagram. What percentage of the US adult population is (a) far dumber than average, (b) greedy, and (c) has an email account?

If you assume that (a) would require two standard deviations below the norm, that still leaves you with perhaps 3,000,000 candidates in the US population, using reasonable assumptions about age.

Assigning a percentage to (b) is a bit more difficult, but since most people will take something for nothing if they perceive no danger in doing so, and since most of the (a) group by definition is unlikely to perceive any danger, let's use 67%, which leaves us with 2,000,000 candidates.

As far as (c), let's make an arbitrary assumption that anyone who is much more than 2.5 standard deviations below the norm will be incapable of using a PC at all, and that anyone in the 2.0 to 2.5 group is likely to be of a lower than average socio-economic level. That suggests a much lower penetration of PC/email users in that group, so let's arbitarily guess that only 5% of (a) group are capable of using a PC/email and have access.

That still leaves us with 100,000 very good candidates for such a scam. Of those 100,000, not all will have a bank account worth pillaging, and many will have no bank account at all. Assume that 10% of the last group do have a bank account, and that each account contains $1,000. That leaves us with a likely market of 10,000 scam victims and $10,000,000 in proceeds from the scam. Not 16% of Nigeria's GNP, perhaps, but still a worthwhile target for scammers.

Robert Bruce Thompson

o o o

The scam that you have received has been going strong in Canada and the United States for more than 20 years. The only thing that changes is the ministry that the letter comes from.Mr Barnum seriously underestimated the resources that he had available. The R.C.M.P and the F.B.I. have mountains of files on this particular bunch and the estimates of the returns to Nigeria vary but are generally in the 7 figure range.

Publishing your confidential top secret letter is the best thing that you can do.

Glen Shevlin

Markham Ontario Canada

I read with interest the correspondence on the Nigerian scam. Here in Italy I have seen this for over ten years, first by letter, then by fax, and lately by e-mail.

The first time one of my staff received this, we decided that our boss might not be pleased if we did not at least let him have a look at the possibility of receiving millions of dollars on his account. My colleague therefore answered (the letter was addressed to him, with an introduction saying something like "I don't know you, but I am told that if you are approached correctly you are a fine person to deal with"), saying that we needed more information on how the scheme was to be set up.

Very soon we were informed that a person would be flying in from Nigeria. We booked a hotel for him, and the morning after my colleague went to pick him up. When I got to the office, my colleague was looking very shame-faced. He took me aside and said, "Andrew, we have a problem. The guy didn't have any money and I had to pay his hotel bill. OK, that's small beer compared to the millions of dollars, but we also had to pay his phone calls, totalling over $500!"

We talked to the Nigerian, who showed us his passport. His profession was "Cinema Director"! He said he had flown in from Nigeria to get information for his big boss. We told him that we thought he was into money laundering and dumped him at the railway station. I then went to the hotel and demanded to have the log of the phone calls. Sure enough, this guy had been on the phone from 6 pm, when he got in, until 8 am the next morning. I received three pages of printout with the details. He phoned several numbers in Nigeria, the UK, the States (different area codes, like Georgia and California) and also several numbers in Italy, all over and over again. My conclusion is that he was an accomplice in Italy of the organisation.

We never told our boss, and did not bother replying to the subsequent variations of the letter, including one from Sierra Leone.

I have seen paid advertisements from the Central Bank of Nigeria in publications like Newsweek warning people about the scam. I am amazed that the thing has lasted this long. There must be a longer string of suckers than anyone admits to.

[Name withheld by request]

Which makes me wonder, what did anyone think would happen? Ah well.

Hi Jerry,

My understanding of how these things work is once you contact them with your details, they'll ask for $30,000 to bribe some officials. If you come up with that, sometimes they fly you over to sign things (courtesy of your $30,000) and quite possibly try to intimidate you into paying a ransom to get home. Others simply keep asking for more money for bribes, and keep reminding you just how much money you stand to make (eg $7 million).

Once you stop paying, they start ransacking your account, transferring out the entire balance if they can, or running up huge debts on your credit cards (especially if you went to visit them - they have the details). There are many variations, and most are undoubtedly run by the government and the military/police.

I know here in Australia several business people lost large sums of money through these scams, and there are probably others who got caught, but don't want to admit to it.

Out Department of Consumer Affairs has issued a couple of public warnings over this.


David Noakes

David Noakes (BSc., MBA)


Senior Software Engineer, Thentec Group (


Clearly Barnum's estimates need revision. Thanks.



E mail <>


Dear sir,

We want to transfer to overseas ($ 152,000.000.00 USD) One hundred and Fifty two million United States Dollars) from a Prime Bank in Africa, I want to ask you to quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a new Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, even an empty a/c can serve to receive this money, as long as you will remain honest to me till the end for this important business trusting in you and believing in God that you will never let me down either now or in future.

I am Mr,JOHN ONWUDI.the Auditor General of prime banks in Africa, during the course of our auditing I discovered a floating fund in an account opened in the bank in 1990 and since 1993 nobody has operated on this account again, after going through some old files in the records I discovered that the owner of the account died without a [heir] hence the money is floating and if I do not remit this money out urgently it will be forfeited for nothing. the owner of this account is Mr. Allan P. Seaman, a foreigner, and an industrialist, and he died, since 1993. and no other person knows about this account or any thing concerning it, the account has no other beneficiary and my investigation proved to me as well that Allan P. Seaman until his death was the manager Diamond Safari [pty]. SA.

We will start the first transfer with fifty two million [$52,000.000] upon successful transaction without any disapointment from your side, we shall re-apply for the payment of the remaining rest amount to your account,

The amount involved is (USD 152M) One hundred and Fifty two million United States Dollars, only I want to first transfer $52,000.000 [fifty two million United States Dollar from this money into a safe foreigners account abroad before the rest, but I don't know any foreigner, I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money can not be approved to a local person here, without valid international foreign passport, but can only be approved to any foreigner with valid international passport or drivers license and foreign a/c because the money is in us dollars and the former owner of the a/c Mr. Allan P. Seaman is a foreigner too, [and the money can only be approved into a foreign a/c

However, we will sign a binding agreement, to bind us together I got your contact address from the Girl who operates computer, I am revealing this to you with believe in God that you will never let me down in this business, you are the first and the only person that I am contacting for this business, so please reply urgently so that I will inform you the next step to take urgently. Send also your private telephone and fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the deposit.

I want us to meet face to face to build confidence and to sign a binding agreement that will bind us together before transferring the money to any account of your choice where the fund will be safe. Before we fly to your country for withdrawal, sharing and investments.

I need your full co-operation to make this work fine. because the management is ready to approve this payment to any foreigner who has correct information of this account, which I will give to you, upon your positive response and once I am convinced that you are capable and will meet up with instruction of a key bank official who is deeply involved with me in this business. I need your strong assurance that you will never, never let me down.

With my influence and the position of the bank official we can transfer this money to any foreigner's reliable account which you can provide with assurance that this money will be intact pending our physical arrival in your country for sharing. The bank official will destroy all documents of transaction immediately we receive this money leaving no trace to any place and to build confidence you can come immediately to discuss with me face to face after which I will make this remittance in your presence and three of us will fly to your country at least two days ahead of the money going into the account.

I will apply for annual leave to get visa immediately I hear from you that you are ready to act and receive this fund in your account. I will use my position and influence to obtain all legal approvals for onward transfer of this money to your account with appropriate clearance from the relevant ministries and foreign exchange departments.

At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 35% of the total amount, 60% will be for me, while 5% will be for expenses both parties might have incurred during the process of transferring.

I look forward to your earliest reply through my email address <>

yours truly


I wonder will anyone bite on this?