Most of you probably have received the e-mail from the guy claiming
to be an African attorney sitting on a boatload of cash. According to
the e-mail, all you have to do is send him a little bit of personal
information, and all that dough will be yours. Some versions of the
scam ask for details about your bank account right off the bat.
Others just ask for contact information -- the point being to first
build up your confidence before springing the trap.
I must have opened and deleted this e-mail 100 times, each time
shaking my head at the unmitigated shamelessness of these snakes that
lurk beneath the surface of the Superhighway. But for some reason, I
opened one this week and actually decided to respond.
Below is an abridged version of the original e-mail (typos,
tortured English and all), along with my reply.
I am Barrister Umlatte Mustapha, An Attorney at Law and Legal
I am the personal Attorney to Mr. Richard Smak, a National of your
country, who used to work with Standard Development Company in
On the 21st of April 2001, my client, his wife and their three
Children were involved in a fatal car Accident along Sagamu Express
Road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives.
Since then I have made several inquires to your Embassy to locate
any of my late clients extended Relatives this has also proved
unsuccessful. I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the
money and property left behind by my client before they get
confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank here this huge
deposit were lodged.
Particularly, the National Bank of Nigeria PLC where the deceased
had an account valued at about (U.S. $13,000.000.00) Thirteen million
United States Dollars has issued me a Final notice to provide the
Next of Kin or have the Account confiscated within the next 21
Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over
1 year now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of
the deceased since you bear the same last name with the deceased so
that the proceeds of this account valued at (U.S. $13,000.000.00)
Thirteen million United States Dollars. This can be paid to you and
then you and me can share the money, all necessary legal documents
will be in place that can be used to back up any claim we may make.
All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this
deal through. Please do get in touch with me for more details, once I
have your consent and trust then we can proceed immediately.
With my best regards,
Barrister Umlatte Mustapha.
What a heart-wrenching story! You wouldn’t think someone named
Smak would be so hard to locate! Have you tried “Googling” the name?
If that doesn’t work, you should get that guy from Eyewitness News
involved, the one who does those “Seven on Your Side” segments. I
think it’s so sweet of you to want me to be part of Mr. Smak’s
family. This is like one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories
I read, the one where the woman who’s allergic to dogs adopts the
village mutt. Or maybe it was the other way around.
To think, a Nigerian barrister would go so far out of his way to
do the right thing by a dead oil company executive. That’s pretty
noble of you, Umlatte. It just burns me up that the National Bank of
Nigeria would want to seize Mr. Smak’s hard-earned fortune. What
would Nigeria do with $13 million, anyway? I mean besides fixing the
Sagamu Express Road, which I gather from your letter is where poor
Mr. Smak and his family met their untimely ends. Had the government
been more concerned about fixing potholes than stealing dead oil
executives’ money, you wouldn’t be in this situation today! But as
much as your story has touched my heart, I’m afraid I just can’t
accept your kind offer to be Mr. Smak’s next of kin. I already come
from a large family myself, and can’t just go getting myself related
to every rich oil man that comes along.
Plus, I don’t even want to think about what kind of tax bracket
this would put me in! Yeah, sure, we’re talking about (U.S.
$13,000,000.00) Thirteen million United States Dollars, but you can
only stretch a (U.S. $1) buck so far these days. If you think living
in Nigeria’s expensive, boy! You should try renting a two-bedroom in
Where would the world be without good Samaritans like yourself,
Umlatte? You must sleep the untroubled sleep of innocence. Surely,
God has written your name in a book somewhere, and rest assured, my
friend, one day he’s going to throw it right at you. Just you wait
Anyway, I don’t want keep you from your important barristering
work, so I’ll be off. Good luck on your search for Mr. Smak!
P.S. Just between us fence posts, Umlatte, you should really think
about getting yourself a new typist.
* DAVID SILVA, a Burbank resident, is a Times Community News
editor. Reach him at (909) 484-7019, or by e-mail at