Living with the internet: Keeping it safe
Living with the internet: Keeping it safe

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Living with the internet: Keeping it safe

7.4 The 419 money fraud

Here is an example of a special type of spam message; you may have come across this before.


FROM: Mr. Grote Martins





It is my great pleasure to write you this letter on behalf of my colleagues. Your information was given to me by a member of the Economic Society of South African Chambers of Trade and Commerce (ESSACTC) who was with the Government delegation on a trip to your country for a bilateral conference talk to encourage foreign investors. I have decided to seek a confidential co-operation with you in the execution of a deal hereunder for the benefit of all parties and hope you will keep it confidential because of the nature of this business.

Within the Department of Minerals and Energy where I work as a Director of Audit, with the co-operation of four other top officials, we have in our possession an overdue payment in US funds.

The said funds represent certain percentage of the contract value executed on behalf of my Department by a foreign contracting firm, which we the officials over-invoiced to the amount of US$21,100,000 (Twenty-one Million One Hundred Thousand US Dollars).

Since the present elected Government is determined to pay foreign contractors all debts owed, so as to maintain good relations with foreign governments and non-governmental agencies, we included our bills for approvals with the Department of Finance and the Reserve Bank of South Africa (RBSA). We are seeking your assistance to front as the beneficiary of the unclaimed funds, since we are not allowed to operate foreign accounts.

Details and change of beneficiary information upon application for claim to reflect payment and approvals will be secured on behalf of you/your Company.

My colleagues and I are prepared to give you US$4.24m while we take US$14.74m and the balance of US$2.12m for taxes and miscellaneous expenses incurred.

This business is completely safe and secure, provided you treat it with utmost confidentiality. It does not matter whether you/your Company does contract projects, as a transfer of powers will be secured in favour of you/your Company. Your specialization is not a hindrance to the successful execution of this transaction. I have reposed my confidence in you and hope that you will not disappoint us.

Yours Faithfully

This is a well-known spam message that is not attempting to sell a product or a service – it is designed instead to fool the reader into parting with their bank details by tempting them with a very attractive-sounding financial deal. The sender of the spam message then withdraws money from the unfortunate message recipient's bank account.

These 'scams' started in Nigeria, but have since spread more widely. The Nigerian government is not very sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim is contravening Nigerian law by conspiring to remove funds from Nigeria. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label 419 fraud.


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