The "Nigerian letter" or "419 Fraud" as Literature
Even before the Internet, back in the strange days of the 1980s, people in the United States began receiving USPS letters purporting to be from wives or children of dead rich Nigerians, and later inhabitants of other war-torn African countries. Each was a fiction, a serial short story that was intended to attract a specific kind of "Reader-Response" from randomly targeted readers which would earn the authors huge sums of money. Think of them as "creative writing" that has become terribly immoral. Though they now come from all over the world, and mainly by email in their initial contacts, because of their original form and nation of origin, they have become known as the "Nigerian letter frauds," or "419" frauds for the section of Nigeria's anti-fraud law which they violate (i.e., 4-1-9).
The letters had several narrative types, but all promised free money to the recipient in return for "assistance," which usually took the form of agreeing to exchange personal information to prepare for the illegal export of vast sums of money from Africa to the United States. The recipient was promised a share of the money. Needless to say, it was fraudulent.
Though the initial requests were clumsy in that they immediately requested highly sensitive information like bank account numbers or passwords, they successfully defrauded hundreds of people out of millions of dollars. Later "letters" became more sophisticated in their narratives' appeals to recipients' sympathies for helpless orphans, people dying of cancer amid cruel relatives, Christians hoping to serve God with one last act of charity, etc. etc. They also learned to slow down the narrative's pace by teasing out the collection of the recipient's personal information, asking for nothing too sensitive at first until an empathic connection could be made to the narrative.
What are the "Nigerian letter fraud"'s basic roles and functions and underlying myths as Structuralism and Deconstruction might explain them?
Mitch Lipka, "Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Fresh Spin on '419 Fraud' Involves Fake Wills, Duped Customers," ConsumerReports WebWatch, 15 August 2005. Available online at: http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/fraud-investigation-419-fraud.cfm. 19 April 2009
1) A traditional "war orphan" form of the "Nigerian letter" fraud email in English and French:
From: williams taylor [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 11:17 AM
FROM WILLIAMS TAYLOR
I KNOW THIS WILL COME TO YOU AS A SURPRISE BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW ME I AM MR WILLIAMS TAYLOR, THE SON OF THE FORMER LIBERIA PRESIDENT MR. CHARLES TAYLOR. MY FAMILY AND I IS ON EXILE.
I GOT YOUR CONTACT IN MY SEARCH FOR AN HONEST PERSON WHOM I CAN CONFIDE IN.I WANT YOU TO HELP ME CLEAR THIS PACKAGE THAT IS ALREADY IN SECURITY VAULT WHICH I SHIPPED THROUGH DIPLOMATIC MEANS WITH THE HELP OF A DIPLOMAT BUT THE CONTENTS OF THE PACKAGE IS $10,000,000.00ALL IN $100.00 BILLS, BUT THE DIPLOMAT DOES NOT KNOW THAT IT IS MONEY THAT I HAVE IN THE PACKAGE.
ALL I WANT YOU TO DO FOR ME NOW IS THIS, GIVE ME YOUR
2. MAILING ADDRESS:
3. Marital Status:
8. Country Of Residence:
9. Telephone Number (Country Code)-(Area Code)- Phone Number):
10 Cell Number: (Country Code) - (Cell Phone Number):
11. Fax Number:
12,COMPANY OR BUSINESS NAME
I WILL GIVE YOU THE CONTACT OF THE DIPLOMAT AND I HOPE THAT AT THE END OF THE DAY, MY IDENTITY MUST NOT BE REVEALED TO ANYBODY.
IF THIS ARRANGEMENT IS OKAY, OTHER MODALITIES WILL BE DISCUSSED AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO ME INCLUDING SENDING OF THE KEYS TO THE BOXES TO YOU.
AS SOON YOU INDICATE YOUR INTEREST.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2009 7:46 PM
Subject: traitement d'urgence
Nous vous saluons au nom du Dieu tout-puissant.
Mon nom est Kenneth Williams et ma soeur Juliet en provenance de la Sierra Leone. Nous vous écris de République de Côte d'Ivoire, où nous avons pris refuge après la guerre brutale et le meurtre de nos parents par les rebelles lors de la reprise des combats dans notre pays.
En raison de la guerre, notre regretté père a vendu sa compagnie de navigation et nous a emmenés à un pays voisin la Côte d'Ivoire, où il a déposé 18.000.000,00 millions de US $ dans son compte auprès d'un étranger de la banque ici en Côte d'Ivoire. En raison de la situation politique actuelle en Côte d'Ivoire, nous sommes à la recherche de votre aide pour transférer cet argent et aussi déménager dans votre pays afin d'approfondir notre étude et nous sommes disposés à vous offrir 15% de la somme totale pour votre aide, mais nous pensons que vous ne pourrez pas faire partie de ce l'argent lorsque la banque d'ici le transfert de votre compte, nous attendons vos réponses, nous allons vous donner plus d'informations sur le transfert.
Kenneth & Juliet Williams.
2) A Second-Generation "Nigerian letter" fraud (the "misdirected financial opportunity"):
From: ben kona [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 04, 2009 5:56 AM
Subject: Good News
Its my pleasure to inform you that i have verified from the bank director regarding the transfer of your fund and it was goodnews because the requested fee was less expensive for you to afford. your consignment containing your fund ($350.000.00) have been deposited with the COBACI BANK so that your fund will be wired to your account immediately. you are to contact the bank director with your banking details. However I went to COBACI BANK to discuss this with the bank director as its has not been delivered to you.
However he told me that your fund can be transfered to you via a direct wire transfer(KTT) into your account. He told me to instruct you to contact the bank to apply for a direct wire transfer into your account to avoid loosing your fund due to delay. Therefore you can contact the bank with below information, send to them your banking information.
TEL/FAX:225 08 50 28 83
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org <http://email@example.com>
COBACI BANK FOREIGN OPERATION DIRECTOR.
MR BENSON ZOKORA.
Send an email to the bank with the above bank email address and apply for your wire transfer as i have informed the bank about you already.
On receipt of your fund into your account endeavour to inform me immediately you receive your fund in your account. The director told me that the only fee you are to pay is $98.00 usd for the opening of new international account there in their bank that will be used to transfer the fund to your destinated account in your country and it will also serve as the bank transfer charges.
Thanks And Remain Blessed
3) A Third-Generation "Nigerian letter" fraud (changed location and highly evolved personal narrative):
From: bailey candice [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 06, 2009 8:54 PM
Subject: FROM CANDICE BAILEY
Let me start by introducing myself to you. My name is Candice Bailey (Ms) and I am employed by NatWest Bank PLC.UK in London. My job entails dealing on behalf of clients with packaging and courier services in my department. I live in South-central London, England. After going through your profile and doing a little research, I have seen that you seem like an honest and trustworthy person who can handle confidential business with me. What I am about to disclose to you is highly confidential and I trust that you will keep my confidence.
A sum of US$9 600 000.00 was supposed to be moved from my bank to a certain client through a courier services company. After doing all the processes to move these funds; the package containing the money was returned to me a couple of times over the years; reason being the recipient did not turn up to receive or claim it. I then decided to offset all the charges and serviced the account and later moved this money into a security firm here in London, where I securely deposited it into a vault as valuable documents to this day. I have kept this money deposited with a security company here in England under my close monitoring for a very long time until I felt confident enough to move this money and make use of it. I now feel ready and confident to make use of this money but first of all I need to move it out of England and in order for me to do this I need a loyal foreign partner to work this out with like you.
My reason for writing you like this is I have decided to retire and resettle in your country and now want the money to be moved out of England to your country, where you will receive it and keep it safe for me until I come over to meet with you there. I need a business partner and friend who will advise me on proper investments in your country and how I can live comfortably. What I need is someone trustworthy to receive the money for me and I think you might fit that profile.
I have made all the arrangements and plans to enable me to move the money from England to a country of my choice without hindrance. I have obtained and secured all back up documents to support whoever I chose as beneficiary to this money. For your assistance and help in receiving and investing the money, you will benefit a reasonable part of the total money.
Should you find my proposal offensive to you in anyway please do forgive me and ignore this mail. If you are willing to be my partner and friend in this project, please reply this message as soon as you read it to let me know your mind on this proposition. If I am convinced that you are totally willing to cooperate with me on this assignment; I will give you my full contact details in England and I would appreciate it very much if you give me yours including your phone number where I can reach you.
Once again, I would appreciate your regard of this matter in high confidence.
Candice Bailey (Ms)
4) A Fourth-Generation "Nigerian fraud" email (the "sweepstakes" notice):
Date Thursday, February 14, 2008 3:30:41 AM
Queen Elizabeth's The Sec II Foundation
Elizabeth's The Sec II Foundation
WOODLANDS ROAD,LEATHERHEAD COURT,UNITED KINGDOM
Registered in London No 892013 / Registered Charity No 251051.
The Queen Elizabeth's Foundation, would like to notify you that you have been chosen by the board of trustees as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development. The Queen Elizabeth's Foundation, established 1977 by the Queen Of England (Queen Elizabeth II) and now supported by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Organization(UNO) and the European Union (EU) was conceived with the objective of human growth, educational,and community development.
You have been award sum of 1,000,000.00 Pounds ( One Million Pounds) as charity donations/aid from the Queen Elizabeth's oundation,ECOWAS, EU and the UNO in accordance with the enabling act of Parliament.(Note that all beneficiaries email addresses were selected randomly from over 100,000 internet websites or a shop's cash invoice around your area in which you might have purchased something from).Contact Barr. Gold Steel. for informations with details:
SEND ALL YOUR
CLAIMS AND INQUIRIES TO THE
BARR. GOLD STEEL
information is strictly confidential and will only be used for the purpose to
which it is been requested.Please note that your qualification number will be
reffled to know the organisation (ECOWAS or
EU) that will handle your payments.On behalf of the Board kindly, accept our warmest congratulations.