Dollars, Gold and Diamonds

E-mails from Africa

Von Henning Wagenbreth

Perhaps the world can still be saved! Repentant Islamic guerillas return plundered goods to Christian communities. Rich orphans desperately seek adoptive parents. Win a fortune in Lotto without even playing!

Government employees make the world more peaceful by pocketing millions of dollars that are meant to be used to buy weapons. Suitcases filled with dyed US dollars delivered free of charge to your home. The money needs only to be washed.

Since the beginning of 1990’s, scam-mails from Africa have been reporting such remarkable events as these. Skepticism follows the initial astonishment. The promises would of course be wonderful were they true.

In contrast to the so-called spam-mails that offer cheap services in undesirable mass advertising and are simply annoying, scam-mails aim to be especially deceitful. The African scam-mails differ from other fraudulent e-mails in their creativity, audacity and their ludicrous claims.

They are fancifully written and thrilling to read. There are no passwords guilefully requested in an attempt to grab a few dollars. Here we’re talking millions. In grand style the swindlers promise heaven and earth to get foreigners to voluntarily hand over piles of cash.

The deception with scam-mails works in the following way: first the scammers locate appropriate e-mail address suppliers and buy thousands of addresses of people all over the world, especially those people from rich, industrial nations.

Enticing letters are then written and sent as mass e-mails. The author asserts that he has come upon too much money either through legitimate inheritance, political unrest, a tragic accident or through simple theft.

In telling his plausible story, he slips into one of various roles decorated with rich detail. Sometimes it’s the helpless child by his parent’s deathbed who’s received millions of dollars and doesn’t know what to do with it all.

Another time he may pose as the government official who is manipulating the state budget or embezzling state funds and is in search of someone to help launder the money. Or he pretends to be the relative of a deposed dictator and authoritatively demands immediate assistance with a foreign currency transfer.

The tone of the letters is cleverly chosen; it’s at times subservient, condescending, solicitous or disdainful. The political, geographic and temporal facts are always on the mark. Internet links to serious news web sites are provided to convince the skeptics.

Furthermore, all scam-mails have something in common: the alleged multimillionaires have anxiety that they will lose their newfound riches due to the uncertain nature of African affairs and, therefore, desperately need help and are searching for a partner to provide bank account information for an immediate transfer of millions of dollars …