Dissecting a Nigerian scam

I am almost willing to bet that you know what I mean when I type “Nigerian scam”. It has been going around under different subjects, using different names and approaching the scam in a multitude of different ways. The ultimate goal is simply one: to get you bite their scam so they can get money out of you. They use some real facts to substantiate their scam.

Some of the faculty on my College has come to me to ask me to block that type of emails, but they always keep coming, from different sources. Another PhD. student even sent me a link to show me that some people still falls in the scammers trap. My reply to that one was:

  1. Greed makes people do crazy things (that applies to both, the scammers and the “scammees”).
  2. What it seems too good to be truth probably, on a 99.9%, it is, you must research on anything received from the Internet before acting up. Trash pretty much everything you are not expecting or does not comes from a known person,
  3. Know where laws stand on your country so you will not break any and, finally,
  4. Evidently, the guy (referred) on the news article is an IDIOT. Read carefully again everything he did. It took me two or three readings to grasp the size of his “idiopathy”. Needless to say that I believe he deserve what he got, but the people affected by him did not. He should pay for his stupidity. And I am talking about paying ‘seven times seven’.

It was then when I decided to run this little experiment. After receiving several of the afore mentioned letters, I decided to bug the scammers by behaving as if I have fallen caught on their trap. The letter I decided to reply to read as follows (I have formatted it for space saving and legibility, since it came all in upper case letters. I have not corrected the misspellings):

From: Barrister Ahmed Tanko.
Isako & Co Inneh Law Firm
Attorneys/Legal Practitioner

Dear friend,

Compliments of the season. Grace and peace and love from this part of the Atlantic to you. I hope my letter does not cause you too much embarrassment as I write to you in good faith based on the contact address given to me by a friend who works at the Nigerian embassy in your country. Please excuse my intrusion into your private life.

I am Barrister Ahmed Tanko, I represent Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, who was the former military head of state in Nigeria. He died in 1998. Since his death, the family has been losing a lot of money due to vindictive government officials who are bent on dealing with the family. Based on this therefore, the family has asked me to seek for a foreign partner who can work with us as to move out the total sum of us$25,000,000.00 (twenty five million United States dollars), presently in their possession. This money was of course, acquired by the late president and is now kept secretly by the family. The swiss government has already frozen all the accounts of the family in Switzerland, and some other countries would soon follow to do the same.

This bid by some government officials to deal with this family has made it necessary that we seek your assisitance in receiving this money and in investing it on behalf of the family. This must be a joint venture transaction and we must all work together. Since this money is still cash, extra security measures have been taken to protect it from theft or seizure, pending when agreement is reached on when and how to move it into any of your nominated bank accounts. I have personally worked out all modalities for the peaceful conclusion of this transaction. My clients are willing to give you a reasonable percentage of this money as soon as the transactionis concluded. I will, however, based on the grounds that you are willing to work with us and also all contentious issues discussed before the commencement of this transaction. You may also discuss your percentage before we start to work. As soon as I hear from you, I will give you all necessary details as to how we intend to carry out the whole transaction.

Please, do not entertain any fears, as all necessary modalities are in place, and I assure you of all success and safety in this transaction. Please, this transaction requires absolute confidentiality and you would be expected to treat it as such until the funds are moved out of this country. Please, you will also ignore this letter and respect our trust in you by not exposing this transaction, even if you are not interested.

Look forward to working with you. Thank you.

Truly yours,

Barrister Ahmed Tanko Esq.

The headers are irrelevant, since they (or he/she) used different free accounts each time, but I should mention that it came from 123.com, a Chilean free web based email, with a reply-to at ahmedtanko@tiscali.co.uk, another free web based email this time from the United Kingdom.

My reply was short, but enticing:

Dear Mr. Tanko,

I am highly interested on this business proposal. Please provide more information and what I am to do next.

Best regards,

David Collantes

Soon after (not even 30 minutes), a reply arrived:

From: Barrister Ahmed Tanko.
Isako Lawfirm
Attorneys/Legal Practitioner
37 Kofi Abayomi Layout, Lagos

Dear friend,

Greetings to you.

I must thank you for your interest to assist this transaction, which shall be based on mutual respect, honesty and above all, the fear of God. I want to beleive that you are sincerely ready to assist us, as we cannot afford to lose this business. We are prepared to have entire confidence in you to do the business with all honesty and to give us our share of the money when it is finally transferred to you. We wish that you have such confidence in us, and beleive that we are capable and that all efforts you will put in the transaction will not be in vain.

It is very important we adopt a code now that we are ready to do this deal.our code is “193”. any message I send to you must carry the code and if i call you or you call me, you must always be the one to ask me of the code before you discuss anything with me. The reason for this is to ensure it is i you are dealing with, taking into consideration the confidential nature of this transaction. as you are now aware, I represent the abacha family who are presently being hounded by the civilian administration of president Olusegun Obasanjo. This victimization is perceived as transferred aggression as the late general Sanni Abacha for coup plotting once jailed president Obasanjo. Bank accounts of the abacha family both in Nigeria and foreign countries such as Switzerland, Britain, France, Germany etc. have been frozen all in a bid to frustrate them.

The US $25m presently envisage for transfer is all the Abacha family has left. Like I mentioned in my first letter to you, I did say the funds are in cash, and for this reason and considering the present ordeal beingundergone by the Abacha family; this fund cannot be paid into a bank account as you have propsed, because if the government knows about it, it is big trouble. So for this reason, the first batch of US $25m have been arranged and securely sealed in a trunk box, crated and then deposited with a security company ready for shipment abroad via diplomatic courier service so as to make it immune to custom and other bureaucratic checks at the ports.the reason for this is because it is the only way the funds can be transferred without any problems. The officials of the security company have been informed the crate contains african wood carvings.

Immediately I receive your intention to cooperate, I shall give instructions for the shipment of the consignment via diplomatic courier to the diplomatic courier express services office in Madrid, Spain, where you will present yourself to take possession of the trunk box containing the cash. Mind you, the consignment is coded, no one must know of its true content. The officials of the diplomatic courier service will be informed the trunk box contain african wood carvings. Please take note. It is after the funds are successfully in your possession that we will have the capacity to discuss type and terms of investment we will use our share for.

My dear partner, I hope you appreciate all our secured arrangement in order to make sure we achieve a 100% hitch-free and mutually beneficial transaction with you as our lives and that of our families are involved. Having put in over 20 years of meritorious service as an attorney in my country, anything that will tarnish my image must be avoided in order not to be labelled economic saboteur. therefore, I implore you to keep everything about this business strictly confidential until the funds have been transferred.

I and my client have resolved to compensate you with 20% of the total funds for your assistance. So based on the above, it is important you communicate with me to let me know whether or not you accept to do this business with us so that we can negotiate your percentage. On the event that you cannot assist us do the business, I beg you to still keep our contact and existence of this fund a secret.

I will require you to email me with your confidential telephone and fax numbers. I am also at your disposition to entertain any question(s) relating to this transaction.

Thank you and Godbless you.

Yours truly,

Barrister Ahmed Tanko Esq. “193”

This one came from ahmedtanko03@yahoo.com (surprise!), sent from this IP,, a RIPE IP allocated to Israel, with no reply-to address.

And my subsequent reply was:

Mr. Tanko,

Thanks for your concise reply. I understand this transaction requires my utmost confidentiality and I am willing to do so. Yet, even thought you are entrusting me with a transaction of such magnitude, I need to be assured that you can be the holder of mine. Before going any further as of to provide you with phone and fax numbers to where I can be reached at, I need to have a proof of your honest and sincere intentions. For such, I kindly request:

  1. A cashier check or money order in the amount of $20 (notice the small amount, which is meant to validate your honesty and sincerity).
  2. A formal letter (not email) to the address below (PLEASE, use same address to send the cashier check or money order):

Trans. “193”
Orlando, FL 32XXX

After this request is fulfilled I will be ready to engage, provide you with the information requested and travel as needed.

Awaiting for your reply, sincerely,

David Collantes

Needless is to say that I am still waiting on my $20. Mr. Tanko has lost his Internet connection.