Filler by Proxy XXIX: Where spam comes from

Friday 20 January 2006

Do you ever get spam from dodgy Nigerians who have millions of dollars lying around the place, but need your help to get it out of the country? Sure you do. But have you ever wondered what sort of person writes and sends this stuff to you? Teju Cole has met one while sitting in an internet cafe in Lagos.
The man seated next to me my first time at Tomsed was composing a message by the hunt and peck method. He pressed one letter on the keyboard, searched for the next, pressed that one, and so on. It was his one-fingered technique that attracted my attention, but when my eye alighted – not entirely accidentally – on his text, I caught my breath. The man was composing a 419 letter. A real-live scam artist sitting next to me. The words were as expected: “transfer”, “dear friend”, “deposited into your account forthwith.” So this was the origin of all that flotsam.

They don’t use your banking details, by the way. The idea behind the scam is to nickel-and-dime you on “unexpected” banking and legal fees to allegedly grease the wheels of Nigerian finance. You can find out more about the 419 scam, and some creative ways of dealing with it, here and especially here. Meet the person who actually got some money out of a Nigerian conman!