Who spams the spammers?

Stories about engaging spammers in witty banter have been popping up once again, possibly sparked off by the release last year of a book called Dot Con, by James Veitch. According to Metro, he “decides to play the scammers at their own game…with brilliant results”. Recently, Mr Veitch has taken this section of his book and performed it live as part of a TED talk and it is very funny.

In fact, the website 419eater has been documenting entertaining examples for a number of years. The number “419” refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, often where the spam originates from.

A dear friend of mine took it upon herself to also write back, way back in 2009. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call her Ruth. The exchange, which took place over a few days, went along the lines of thus…

Him: I work with the Accounts Department of Ecobank, here in Abijan, Republic of Cote d’Ivoire… this business is in respect of the sum of $4,410,000) only deposited in my bank account which belonged to an American businessman, Mr Andrew Shoemaker, who unfortunately lost his life in an auto accident which happened ob January 19 2004, including his wife and only daughter.

I am contacting you to act as next of kin to Mr Andrew Shoemaker. With your permission this fund will be transferred to your private account abroad… If you find this proposal acceptable, I expect your urgent response and on receipt of that, we shall deliberate on the sharing ratio… Please keep this confidential for security reasons…”

Ruth: Dear Mr Solomon Toure, Accounts Department, Ecobank, Abijan, Republic of Cote d’Ivoire,

This is going to surprise you, but I am actually related to a Mr Andrew Shoemaker. He is my cousin and he moved to America years ago. He married and has a daughter, Sally, and they all enjoyed going to Disneyland and EuroDisney, amongst other things.

I lost contact with my cousin Mr Andrew Shoemaker well over three years ago and for the last nine months, I’ve been trying to get in touch with him – he owed me some money.

Do you think it’s likely that this is the same Mr Andrew Shoemaker? I am not sure how I feel about this: I am very sad if this is my cousin and he, his wife and their daughter, Sally, are all now dead and buried; but if it is him, I would very much like to claim back the money he stole from me all those years ago as a result of our failed cocktail umbrella business.

Please, Mr Solomon, can you tell me if this Mr Andrew Shoemaker had any distinguishing marks on his body? My cousin had a birthmark on his right cheek that looked something like a 4-leaf clover. If this is the same man, I am very lucky, don’t you think?

Please get back to me and we can discuss the ‘sharing ratio’ as you so intriguingly put it.

Him: Is my delight contacting you? Thank you for your swift and prompt response. I am sorry I do not know if Mr Andrew Shoemaker had a mark. So I need reliable individual to assist me in this matter. Are you able? If you accept this offer to work with me, I need the following:

1) Your full name
2) Your bank address and referral number
3) Your age occupation and position

Let this be confidential to only both of us because I am still serving in government, as soon as the fund get to you account I would retire from office and join you for sharing proceedings.

Kindly indicate your interest by sending an email to me so that I can give you the Solomon Toure.

Ruth: Dear Solomon,

Your delight has definitely contacted me. I am 72 years old and a retired sergeant in the British armed forces. I have worked with many actors and popstars doing secret missions they do not want the Queen or Prime Minister to know about. I would like to help you out, despite what appears to be a very limited grasp of the English language.

PLEASE give me the Solomon Toure!

Him: How are you today and thanks for your email.

You sound very serious in your write-up but unfortunately you are not matching your word with action in my last email I attached a text of application for you to send to the bank for onward processing of your fund and this I expected you to have done if you are really serious and aggrieved over your missing fund, and now the opportunity is here for you to retrieve it, I feel you should not leave any stone unturned but to swing into action.

Please I want to hear from you that you have submitted the application as directed to the bank we do not have time on our side.

Ruth: I am sorry that you feel I am not backing up my words with my actions. I feel that I have offended you and that is not what I wanted to do.

I am still very much interested in this project and if you could tell me what I need to do now for you, I will gladly do it straight away.

I do not want to annoy you and I pray that you are still OK with me. Are you, Solomon? I must also tell you upfront that I would not be giving any of this money to charity. I do drink a fair amount of alcohol and I like to go to nightclubs and dance with hunky young men. Sometimes I even spend my money on illegal substances, but only on birthdays and ‘special occasions’.

Would you still be willing to give me the money if you knew that it was going to be used for immoral purposes? I am only telling you my intentions as a one-off act of honesty.

Please get back to me Solomon, and then we can get this show on the road, as we say here in the UK.

Him: Na u sabi? (this translates as ‘that’s your business’)


At which point I believe Mr Solomon stopped writing to Ruth.

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