SECTION FIVE

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COLUMN EIGHTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

THE "N-WORD? IS NIGERIA


market@safari-iafrica.com

As a kid, I used to think that Africans were dumb N-words who walked around naked and lived in thatched huts. As a kid, I was even dumber than I thought the Africans were. But now that I've fast-forwarded myself some 70 years into the Age of the Internet, I find that living right here in the good old U. S. of A. are people still dumber yet.

America's dummies don't live in thatched huts. And I don't mean America's poor---the homeless who live in shanties or corrugated boxes or who live right on the sidewalk. I?m talking about the idiots who are well off enough to have bank accounts and dumb enough to let themselves be swindled out of those bank accounts by African con men equipped with computers. I'm talking about idiots dumb enough to be enticed by a con game that's as old as the hills where some of those idiots live. A con game that's older even than talking someone into buying the Brooklyn Bridge.

These are idiots supposedly intelligent enough to have bank accounts and to own and operate computers. They get an email with a header that says, "URGENT ASSISTANCE." Or,  "REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE." Or, "URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL." Or, 'sTRICTLY  CONFIDENTIAL." Of course, as soon as a person reads "CONFIDENTIAL? that should be a tip-off. The term "con-game? is short for confidence game. The con man wants the game strictly confidential between the idiot with the bank account and the con man. But, as they say, a sucker is born every minute.

It's simple enough for the Nigerian conners to go into business. You simply buy a computer, you buy a million email addresses and then you start spamming. You throw out as many baited lines as you can. You fish for a sucker in cyberspace. Your emails almost all sound the similar. Usually written all in capital letters---because to the dummies that send them as well as the dummies that fall for them, if it's all in capital letters it's got to seem more important. Like so many that have polluted my own inbox, a typical email from a con man will start out:

I AM MRS.  SESE-SEKO WIDOW OF LATE PRESIDENT MOBUTU SESE-SEKO OF ZAIRE? NOW KNOWN AS DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC). . ."

When I last counted, I?d received 62 e's from 62 different Mrs. Sese-Sekos, some with first names spelled differently, many claiming sons of various names to be the go-betweens and all from coming from different email addresses. Or a Mrs. Mariam Abacha, who claims to be 'tHE WIFE OF THE IMMEDIATE PAST MILITARY PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA WHO DIED ON 8TH JUNE 1998. . ."

At last count, I?d received 42 e's from 42 different Mrs. Abachas, some with first names all spelled differently, many with sons of various names to be the go-betweens and all with different email addresses.

There was even one con man email header that said:

'tHANK GOD I CAN REACH YOU."

God, of course, had nothing to do with it. In this case, the computer has become God. Before the computer, the con men would play the same old con game via snail mail.. The suckers fell for it then, too.

These widows---or sons or daughters or cousins or doctors, lawyers and thieves---claim their dead husbands---or fathers or cousins or clients---were African dictators or tribal chiefs that stashed away millions and they've picked you from out of the blue to share some of those millions. This type of con game has various permutations, but I'll let the U.S. Secret Service explain exactly how the con game works. So many suckers are falling for it that the government felt compelled to put a PUBLIC AWARENESS ADVISORY REGARDING "4-1-9" OR "ADVANCE FEE FRAUD" SCHEMES on its government website. You can access the website at http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml :

Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Overview

The perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), known internationally as "4-1-9" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes, are often very creative and innovative.

Unfortunately, there is a perception that no one is prone to enter into such an obviously suspicious relationship. However, a large number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses to share in multi-million dollar windfall profits for doing absolutely nothing. It is also a misconception that the victim's bank account is requested so the culprit can plunder it -- this is not the primary reason for the account request -- merely a signal they have hooked another victim.

      ●In almost every case there is a sense of urgency;

      ●The victim is enticed to travel to Nigeria or a border country;

      ●There are many forged official looking documents;

      ●Most of the correspondence is handled by fax or through the mail;

      ●Blank letterheads and invoices are requested from the victim along with the  
     
banking particulars;  

      ●Any number of Nigerian fees are requested for processing the transaction
      with each fee purported to be the last required;

      ●The confidential nature of the transaction is emphasized;

      ●There are usually claims of strong ties to Nigerian officials;  

      ●A Nigerian residing in the U.S., London or other foreign venue may claim to
      be a clearing house bank for the Central Bank of Nigeria;  

      ●Offices in legitimate government buildings appear to have been used by   
      impostors

It was from Nigeria that this flood of con game email started originating. On 60 Minutes, I heard Mike Wallace characterize Nigeria as the most corrupt of countries. Not as corrupt as America,


A county official
robbed the county of the thousands she was taken for


Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was quick to shoot back. But the truth is that Nigeria is at least as corrupt as America, although on a lesser scale. Here, we have such legalized swindles as the stock market. In Nigeria, small-time swindling seems to be the national occupation, from the Generals at the top down to anybody who can afford a computer. And computer sales have jumped in Nigeria. Because this type of con is working big-time.

On 60 Minutes also, I watched a report about a lady county official out where the states are square who fell for the con. Fell for it like a boulder dropped into a pond.. Fell for it enough to rob her county of the thousands of dollars she let herself get taken for. She really believed that out of the blue, a stranger was going to give her a million dollars for doing practically nothing. As the saying goes, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is.

The Secret Service says that dumb lady county official out where the states are square aint the only one. Africa's con men are mining gold, not only in America but in the entire English-speaking world. According to the Secret Service:

Indications are that Advance Fee Fraud grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate. In all likelihood, there are victims who do not report their losses to authorities due to either fear or embarrassment.

Several reasons have been submitted why Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud has undergone a dramatic increase in recent years. The explanations are as diverse as the types of schemes. The Nigerian Government blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of foreigners.

You can see a copy of one of the first few of these con emails I received on EMAIL PAGE THREE OF COLUMN SIXTY-NINE . Dated March 1, 2002, this particular con email came from a Robert Eze Esq, who claimed in capital letters to be EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, CONTRACT AWARD COMMITTEE NIGERIAN NATIONAL COAL MINNERS CORPORATION. (DEPARTMENT OF PETROLEUM RESOURCES).

But here is a more typical con letter I've received:

Subject: URGENT ASSISTANCE
Date: Sun, 09 Jan 2000 17:43:35 +0100
From: MRS.JUSTINA KABILA <justina49@netscape.com>
Reply-To: justina49@tur.net
To: info@blacklistedjournalist.com
 

STRICTLY  CONFIDENTIAL
FROM: MRS. JUSTINA KABILA
TEL: +31-613-865-048
E-MAIL: justina49@tur.net

ATTN:

AN APPEAL FOR YOUR PERSONAL ASSISTANCE TO INVEST IN YOUR COUNTRY I AM FORTY-NINE YEARS OLD WIDOW (THE THIRD WIFE) OF THE LATE PRESIDENT  LAURENT KABILA OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. MY HUSBAND WAS  ASSASINATED BY ONE OF HIS BODYGUARD ON THE 16th OF JANUARY 2001. AT THE MID OF THE REBELLION WHICH IS STILL ON IN MY COUNTRY,MY SON AND I  WENT OUT OF CONGO ACCORDING TO MY HUSBAND INSTRUCTION BEFORE HIS DEATH  BECAUSE THE FAITH OF OUR COUNTRY WAS YET TO BE DECIDED.

WE CAME TO  AMSTERDAM WITH THREE SEALED BAGGAGE CONTAINING THE SUM OF TWENTY-TWO  MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS (US$22,000,000.00). ON ARRIVAL IN AMSTERDAM THE NETHERLANDS, WE SOUGHT FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM. WE  WERE NOT ALLOWED TO OPERATE A BANK ACCOUNT AND DECIDED TO DEPOSIT THE SEALED  BAGGAGES CONTAINING THE FUNDS WITH A PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANY.(UCL DIPLOMATIC SERVICES) FOR SECURITY REASONS, I DECLARED THE CONTENT AS PHOTOGRAHPIC MATERIALS of high security value BELONGING TO MY  FOREIGN AFFILIATED BUSINESS PARTNER. SINCE THEN WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR A  RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON TO HELP ME FOR SAFE KEEPING OF THE MONEY PRIOR TO INVESTING IN ANY CONDUCIVE COUNTRY IN OVERSEA. I GOT IN CONTACT WITH SOMEBODY IN AUSTRALIA,HE BECAME GREEDY CONSIDERING HIS  SHARE IN THE TRANSACTION, HE ASKED FOR 40%. LUCKILY, I RAN INTO YOUR  PERSONAL INFORMATION AND DETAILS, AND DECIDE TO CONTACT YOU AND SEE IF YOU  COULD BE OF ANY HELP TO ME  AND THE TERMS OF THE TRANSACTION IS AS FOLLOWS: 1) 25% OF THE TOTAL SUM TO YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN PROVIDING ACCOUNT AND  SAFE KEEPING OF THE FUNDS. 2) 5% OF THE TOTAL SUM WILL BE SET ASIDE FOR ANY EXPENSES THAT MAY  BE  INCURRED IN THE PROCESS OF THIS TRANSACTION. 3) 70% OF THE TOTAL SUM WILL BE FOR ME AND MY FAMILY INVESTMENT IN YOUR  COUNTRY OF WHICH YOU WILL BE A GUIDE TO US. PLEASE SHOULD THIS MEET YOUR ULTMOST CONSIDERATION,CONTACT MY SON (PETER KABILA)  THROUGH TELEPHONE:(+31-613-865-048) peter29@tur.net PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK (PETER) ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY  CONSIDER NECESSARY, HE IS FRONTING FOR ME ;AS I LOOK FOWARD TO HEAR FROM YOU.

YOURS TRULY,
MRS. JUSTINA KABILA.

Although I didn't put Robert Eze Esq's e on my EMAIL PAGE UNTIL THE March 1, 2002 issue, his e was sent in January. By then, I was receiving one such con email a day, all with varying versions of the flim-flam. I put Eze's e on my EMAIL PAGE because I was so astounded to see anybody trying that old chestnut and I also wanted to warn my readers. I entitled the letter: A TYPICAL NIGERIAN CON (WE GET AN E LIKE THIS EVERY DAY).

But, like they say, there's a sucker born every minute. This con email thing was working so well, it seemed all Nigeria was getting into the act. Soon I started getting two such e's a day, then three, then four. I started collecting them in an email file I labeled NIGERIA. Then I started getting them from other countries in Africa, then from Amsterdam and then from other parts of the world. Then they started sending me two and three copies of the same email at a time. Every day, my inbox is filled with them. They are taking over the Internet. They are hogging bandwidth! Why? A sucker is born every minute, that's why. These con men (and con women) are fishing in a well-stocked ocean. The game once worked well with snail mail. But email is so much easier.

Once I sent a test email to one of the addresses. A reply came:

"Did you want something??

The very next thing that happened? My monitor screen was captured by a pop-up ad warning me that anyone on the Internet could raid my hard drive and I should buy a $50 firewall from the advertiser. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get rid of this pop-up ad until I pulled the plug on my computer. Paranoid, I was so upset, I phoned the FBI. All I got was a big yawn.

But the Secret Service is on the job:

In response to this growing epidemic, the United States Secret Service established "Operation 4-1-9" designed to target Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud on an international basis.  The Financial Crimes Division of the Secret Service receives approximately 100 telephone calls from victims/potential victims and 300-500 pieces of related correspondence per day.

The con emails started pouring into my inbox so fast that my NIGERIA folder was soon overstuffed. Eventually, I stopped bothering to collect them. I started replying to them with curses and accusations and even got a cc from someone in Germany who'd replied to them using the N-word. Then, I started replying with messages saying I had a nice bridge in Manhattan that I wanted to sell them. I got a reply from one asking what kind of transaction I was proposing? Then I learned about the Secret Service website and I started replying with a simple "http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml."

The success of the Nigerian con men in mining the Internet has started a con man gold rush. Con men using all kinds of variations of old chestnuts as bait are dropping lines into cyberspace.. Another variation of an old chestnut is this: GLOBAL LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL. They notify you that you've won something kike a trillion dollars. Of course, you've gotta pay money to collect. But the only one who collects is the con man, who pockets the money you send.

It was when my "http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml" replies started getting returned as undeliverable that I realized that the con men realized they were getting too much junk mail. Were they changing tactics. Possibly, they were embedding a real return address within the body of their con letters. Only an interested sucker would bother to read that far. So I stopped wasting my precious time. Now. I'm getting maybe two dozen a day. They've taken to changing the headers n their con mail. Now they send mails with headers like "GREETINGS" or "GET BACK AT ME" or "CAN I TRUST YOU?" or "SAVE A LIFE" or "MISS WORLD BEAUTY PAGEANT" or "SINCERE PROPOSAL" or "REPLY TODAY."

As for me, no more clicking on REPLY. Now, I just hit DELETE. DELETE. DELETE. DELETE. DELETE. I stamp them out like cockroaches. They are infesting my inbox. ##

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