This is True
Randy Cassingham

Randy Cassingham’s Blog

Author’s Notes from This is True® — Thought-Provoking
Entertainment Online Since the Internet’s Dark Ages.

bullet  This Can't Go In the Newsletter

I Wanted to Cover a Story, but I knew there was no way I could put it in the newsletter: it would cause the issue to be trapped by about 90 percent of readers’ spam filters.

But I can post it on my blog and point you here!

Consider this an “extra” story for the 7 May 2017 issue:

Apartment 419

Acting on a tip, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission agents raided an apartment in Lagos. There were no reports of arrests, but the tip was accurate: they seized $43 million in U.S. bills, 27,800 U.K. pounds (US$35,000), and 23.2 million Nigerian naira (US$75,000). Most of the money was stuffed into fireproof file cabinets hidden behind a wardrobe. (RC/CTV) ...And you can earn a substantial percentage of the money by helping them get it out of the country.

The “419” in the slug refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, and there’s so much fraud being perpetrated over the Internet from Nigeria — and so many fall for the really quite obvious scam — that most Internet security experts can quote the section number from memory. I certainly did when writing this.

Evidence photo. Some of the wads of cash that was confiscated. The photos on this page were among those released by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission after the raid.

The most-common “Nigerian scam” is the advance fee con, which promises unlikely riches if you pay a small fee for shipping, or to bribe officials, or to pay wire transfer fees, insurance, taxes, or anything else they’ll think you’ll fall for. Fee after “advance” fee piles up, growing ever larger — and the dupes keep paying because they don’t want to “lose” their growing “investment” — which of course was lost the second it was paid.

Evidence photo. In all, more than $43 million was confiscated, mostly brand-new-looking US$100 bills, many still apparently in their Bureau of Engraving & Printing plastic wrapping.

There are many other such scams, and certainly not all of them originate in Nigeria, but so many do they’ve become known as “Nigerian scams.”

Evidence photo. And no, you can’t really get a percentage of the money by helping to smuggle it out of the country. But you knew that, right? Right?!

It’s nice to hear that there is an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria working to clean things up. The more success they have, the better the reputation for Nigeria as a whole — and the less likely that the very mention of the country’s name in an email will result in it being filtered as spam.

Further Reading

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12 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Lenny, Florida on May 8, 2017:

I have dealt with some of the victims of this scam. It all boils down to people either trying to help a stranger, or a desire to make a financial windfall. An element of greediness is commonly involved as well.

Since the advent of Facebook, these scams are more common, as more people can be reached by these scammers. They find you online and look for a way to "Friend" you. This is easy, as all you need to do is find somebody who you know, and make friends with them first. When you get the request, you assume it is okay because your friends know him.

Sometimes they come right out and ask if you want to get rich. Others say they are moving to the States and need help moving their money. Just remember the old line "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Posted by Jim Klick, Crest Hill, IL on May 8, 2017:

In 1939, W.C. Fields made a movie titled, "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man".

It is even more relevant today than it was when it was made.

Posted by Brenda on May 8, 2017:

This makes me angry because I get these scam emails several times a week. I am a female, 72 year old and I know that there are tons of seniors getting ripped off by these scammers. They are usually poor and anxious to get a little extra cash or to help someone. It doesn't matter how many times I block them they manage to send me more.

Posted by Linda on May 8, 2017:

Nigerians certainly aren't the only ones to scam unsuspecting folks. Before social media, some TV evangelists did a pretty good job of getting people to donate to their churches while living high on the hog rather than advancing a ministry. When my grandmother passed we found she had contributed hundreds and hundreds of dollars out of her meager social security income to some of these preachers.

But today's email and social media scammers have raised it to a whole new level.

Posted by Michael, Santa Cruz on May 8, 2017:

The initial emails often are poorly written, full of grammatical errors, and obvious scams. That's deliberate. They don't want people like Brenda replying -- they're too hard to fool. They want people who are easily taken in, like the seniors she mentions.

Until all emails can be easily traced to the source, which I think is possible, the 419 scams will go on.

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I look forward to truly authenticated email streams. It's technologically easy, but hard in practicality since the free-for-all system is so entrenched. We're at least moving in the right direction. -rc

Posted by Richard - Swindon - UK on May 9, 2017:

Do the sources disclose if that cash was 'real' or forged? I guess there is a hint in the wording "...many still apparently in their Bureau of Engraving & Printing plastic wrapping."

I guess I am curious that in this modern age of electronically moved money, the gangs would have so much cash. It feels like it might be the tip of an iceberg.

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Cash is harder to trace than electronic. The study of the flow of drug money, for instance, can be pretty fascinating. If the money were fake, that would be yet another story, and there was no hint of that. -rc

Posted by Bill in Minnesota on May 9, 2017:

Brenda: if you and your friends are getting these several times a week, you should be looking at a mail system with a better spam filter. These are so well known that any reasonable filter should block them.

Google Mail aka Gmail has one of the best spam filters out there (you do have flag some spam and watch for things that it tags but you want at first but it gets better the more you show it.

One of the neat things Gmail has going for it is that you can forward your existing mail address to it and it will do the spam filtering without changing your email. If your email is through your provider, I recommend forwarding it and then training people to use your gmail address. That way, you don't lose all your email if you change providers.

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I indeed highly recommend Gmail in my Spam Primer book. -rc

Posted by Tim, Belgium on May 10, 2017:

There is already a system to authenticate that an email is indeed sent from the domain it claims to be from (more info https://support.google.com/a/answer/2466580).

It's far from perfect, it's not supported everywhere, but I feel it's a good start. I'd really like it if This is True mails would start using it ;)

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See "It's technologically easy," above. There are several reasons it's hard in practice, such as the comment on the page you linked: "You must send all email messages through your own domain for DMARC to be effective." When 99.9% of all my outgoing mail comes from third parties (email service providers distributing the newsletters), that presents a challenge. Not impossible, mind you, but I can't add headers to the ESP emails. What I have already done is publish an SPF record which specifies exactly which third parties are authorized to send mail on my servers' behalf. It's also far from ideal, but a start. We still need a truly robust authentication system with a cutoff date for when not-authenticated mail can be sent -- and then stick to that deadline. -rc

Posted by Lisa, Tennessee on May 12, 2017:

Where will the millions of dollars go? I think it should be returned to the victims, but it will probably end up in some government bank account. So many elderly lose their life savings to scams like this, it would be nice if those who filed a police report could share the proceeds of this raid.

Posted by Jonathan, Ohio on May 12, 2017:

Those scammers will try anything. Here's the strangest scam I've personally seen: While cleaning out my Gmail spam folder one day (I do so regularly since I get very few spams and a lot of false positives), I found a Nigerian scam email telling me that I had been awarded a large sum of money as compensation for falling victim to a Nigerian scam. I facepalmed immediately and questioned out loud if people were really that stupid. Unfortunately, some are.

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That is one way to find really gullible obliviots! -rc

Posted by Anne, Reno NV on May 13, 2017:

A few years back a friend of mine, who was 30 at the time, started corresponding from a supposed young lady from Nigeria. He actually is reasonably intelligent, but he was lonely and very naive. Anyway, this person told him that she was a doctor in Nigeria, and he fell in love with her and proposed to her. He bought her the ring, then she asked him to send money so that she could buy a computer to give her mother so that she could keep in touch with her after moving to America. After he bought the computer, she asked him to send her the money for her flight over. The day of the flight, she messaged him and said that they wouldn't allow her on the flight because her vaccinations were not up to date, and asked him to send her more money to book a different flight over. About this time, a close friend of his showed him the picture of his supposed fiance, on a different dating website, using a different name, but with the same email address. That is what it took for him to finally realize that she/he/or it had catfished him. Very sad.

Posted by Anuschka, Switzerland on May 13, 2017:

I am 47 and am always astonished how many people STILL fall for this and smiliar scams. I get a few now and then and the usual enhancing of the s*x**l organs I don't have and Vi*gr* I don't need as a female.

I work for someone who always prints me out those mails and puts a ? on them. I told them uncountable times just mark it spam and block the address, but it seems they will not learn -- well it's not my business and not my mailbox but IF it were I would hate to get more junk mail than mail relevant for my business and would take immediate action.

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