Friday, January 19, 2007

The Nigerian (419) Book Scam

In the early 1980s, M. and were dues-paying members of the Fellowship of Isis--sort of a souvenir of our honeymoon in Ireland, when we made a couple of visits to Clonegal Castle, its headquarters.

Our contact details were published in the FOI newsletter, which brought several letters to us from Nigeria.

They always took the same form: "Dear Glorious Wonderful Adepts . . . I so much want to learn blah blah blah . . . Please send me all of the books that you have . . . for free."

Having received a bunch of these letters, I was pretty well inoculated against the "419 scam." You get those emails too, I am sure: the widow of the minister of something-or-other who has millions of dollars stashed in a bank account, and only you (or some other sucker) can help her retrieve them, with the help of God, of course.

(Lots of sample letters here, and if you want to have a little fun scamming the scammers, here are some helpful hints.)

So it was a blast from the past when Llewellyn forwarded to me this week a letter from one "Mr. Inemesit Sanctum" (if I read correctly) of Abia State, Nigeria.

It begins "Dear Spiritual Don," I wonder if he means "Don" in the Spanish/Italian sense, as in "Don Giovanni," or an Oxbridge academic "don." Perhaps the latter?

My edited book Living Between Two Worlds "opened his eyes" blah blah blah.

"I never knew that witchcraft could be so exciting and unassociated with the typical diabolism which I used to be told, which caused me a great dread of it."

Etc. etc. etc. And then the pitch:

"Finally, to cool my thirst, send me such books as [lists four titles from the Llewellyn catalog]. Doing this will give me and my yearning friends hope to climb the strange but exciting spiritual ladder."

No mention of payment, of course. That's the Nigerian touch. They never even offer to cover postage.

And the closing: "Yours spiritually."

Ah, nostalgia. A handwritten begging letter in this day of email 419 scams.

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Blogger Glenn Fleishman said...

This is a fascinating variant on the real Nigerian book scam, which is to order books (typically law books or textbooks) to have shipped to Lagos, paid for by a stolen credit card, or combined with the cashier's check overpay scam. The law books are, bizarrely, typically sold into Russia! It's a strange world we live in. I run a site that provides price comparisons for books from online bookstores, and I regularly receive this sorts of inquiries: "we need 60 copies Black's Law."

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

If they would send me a fake cashier's check, I would frame it!

As the owner of rental property, I have had people try to run that "overpayment" scam on me. It is always by e-mail and usually appears to be from the UK, for some reason.

7:54 AM  

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