Great piece in The New Yorker by Mitchell Zuckoff (thanks, John) about a 419 Nigerian email scam that dates back to 2001 involving an ordained minister, John W. Worley. You think you know how these scams work but read on. These people are much more sophisticated and tenacious than the spam you receive. Also, the gullibility of the victim is not about stupidity. Once you’re in, you throw everything in after it trying to get something back, and to vindicate your faith:
Despite everything, he insisted that he still believed he had been dealing with the real Maryam and Mohammed Abacha. “I think they were legitimately trying to use me and my resources to get their funds out of Nigeria into a safe place where they could have access to them,” he said. Worley wasn’t sure whom to blame for the bad checks, though Nduka was suspect. “Somehow there was a buyoff, a payoff, or something that went on there, and then it got switched to the point where I was then dealing with fraudsters,” he said.
And they won’t let go:
An enduring trait of Nigerian letter scammers—indeed, of most con artists—is their reluctance to walk away from a mark before his resources are exhausted. On February 5, 2003, several days after the checks were revealed as phony, after Worley was under siege by investigators, after his bank account had been frozen, after he had called his partners “evil bastards,” Worley received one more e-mail from Mercy Nduka.
“I am quite sympathetic about all your predicaments,” she wrote, “but the truth is that we are at the final step and I am not willing to let go, especially with all of these amounts of money that you say that you have to pay back.” She needed just one more thing from Worley and the millions would be theirs: another three thousand dollars.
“You have to trust somebody at times like this,” she wrote. “I am waiting your response.”