The 411 on 419s

20 September, 2009
Rat Fink

Yesterday, in my school email, I found this letter:

Each time I get one (which is quite frequently), I find myself wondering, Who actually falls for this stuff? The answer: many folks. It’s unbelievable.

Called “Nigerian 419” scams because of Nigeria’s law enforcement code for fraud (419), these schemes promise huge windfalls of cash if you’ll only do this, and send this, and pay this fee, and keep this “confidential.” People have gone so far as to physically meet these crooks in Europe somewhere to seal the deal, resulting in losing their life savings, their families, and even their lives. And it doesn’t help that the bad guys will go to incredible lengths to propagate the ruse. Amazing.

Again…to me, and seemingly to anyone with the slightest bit of cautious savvy (and that should define anyone who has an email address, but sadly…), there is no possible way to take seriously an email from a stranger that begins with “Hello Dear” (a badly mangled translation of our standard “Dear _______” greeting), or purports to be royalty or a government official using a Hotmail account.  Also, in an age when our culture is steeped in general suspicion of outsiders or strangers, it is doubly puzzling how people can get sucked in. But they do, and you might be surprised at exactly who they are.

According to my research, it is a sad situation. Oftentimes, people who are duped are a) older, lacking the requisite suspicious nature that keeps us out of trouble like this; b) in a “bad place” in their lives emotionally, seeking a way out through a new beginning with new people; c) desperate — in a horrible financial state and needing a quick fix; or d) just plain greedy, which puts them in the precarious position of being vilified right along with the criminals when the jig is up and they realize they’ve been smoked.

Do you know of anyone who’s fallen for this? I don’t, personally. (And if I fell for it myself, truthfully, I wouldn’t tell anyone.) There are people who deliberately pose as victims, just to lure the snakes out of the underbrush and give them a taste of their own venom. I find that funny, and just a little satisfying, I must admit.

Careful out there, fiends.

PSA Fink

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Will
Will
20 September, 2009 11:52 pm

The people are parasites. One of my favorite episodes of Veronica Mars actually tackled the subject.

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Suzanne
Suzanne
21 September, 2009 1:22 am

These occasionally slip through our spam, too, and I am always surprised that they are still out there. I remember back in the Dark Ages when I was first online I would forward stupid things and wonder about the 419s I got. Hard to believe that there are people out there who are just now getting hooked up to the internet and might be falling for these kinds of things.

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