Could this scam really work?

No doubt many others receive regular emails promising them millions of Dollars/Pounds/Euros. On the whole the quality of these scams has declined, to the point where they seem so obviously laughable that you would wonder whether it’s worth anyone’s while writing such stuff. Below is one that I received today. Given its incoherent message and illiterate style, and the fact that anyone reading it would be doing so without any prior context, it would seem totally unbelievable to me that anyone at all could possibly take it as genuine. And yet it was written and sent, so presumably the author thought otherwise. Can there really be suckers out there who would fall for this?

For anyone wondering, the objective here is to make you give them a copy of your passport. Everything else is just padding around that.


International credit settlement
Office of the director of operations
Mr Mark Farraday
Overseas Bank International plc.


This is to officially inform you that we have verified your contract/inheritance file and found out that why you have not received your payment is because you have not fulfilled the obligations given to you in respect of your contract/inheritance payment.

Secondly we have been informed that you are still dealing with the none officials in the bank all your attempt to secure the release of the fund to you.

We wish to advice you that such an illegal act like this have to stop if you wishes to receive your payment since we have decided to bring a solution to your problem.

Right now we have arranged your payment through our swift card payments Asia Pacific, that is the latest instruction by the new elected President Federal Republic of Nigeria. President Umaru Musa Yar’adua (gcfr) on his speech when swearing in as the president Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This card center will send you an ATM card which you will use to withdraw your money in any ATM machine in any part of the world, but the maximum is (five thousand dollar per day).

So if you like to receive your fund this way please let us know by contacting the customer care service card payment center and also send the following information;

Your full name:

Your phone and fax number

Your age:

Your current occupation:

A copy of your identity card:

Your country of origin:

Your address where you want the ATM to be send:

Customer care service.
Rev. Michael Iwo
Integrated Payment Department.

[followed by ‘contact details’]

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5 Comments on “Could this scam really work?”

  1. Steve Says:

    Various points.

    Firstly, e-mails of this sort can readily be sent out by the hundreds of thousands, and it only takes a relatively small number of replies to cover the cost of doing so. I agree that the number who would fall for this one is small, but it need not be anything else to turn a profit. The details asked for are quite substantial, certainly enough to be sold on to other criminals. (For an interesting recent article on the market in identity details, see:

    Secondly, if this particular spam really doesn’t have any takers, then presumably its author will try to improve it, and will perhaps succeed. We all learn our jobs by doing them, and electronic fraud is just a job. The fact is that significant amounts of money are made by this type of fraud; if the particular example doesn’t impress you, then presumably there are others out there that would, or should. No doubt someone who wished to steal your own identity would have to use different tactics, such as purloining your wallet or stealing data direct from your bank – we are all vulnerable, just not to the same techniques.

    Thirdly, your own standards in respect of language may be unusual; the sorts of career path that lead to a university presidency will certainly involve considerable facility with written language – to an unusual degree. (For example, less than a week ago, you were protesting that split infinitives are ungrammatical – whereas to most English speakers this is at best a personal linguistic preference, if indeed it is comprehensible at all.) What strikes you as “incoherent and illiterate” may merely be normal to others – and if those others have stealable identities, then the author of that e-mail will no doubt be very interested in persuading them to reply.

    • Interesting points, Steve. I do however think that even someone of quite basic education would find this particular email to be illiterate. It’s supposed to come from a bank…!

      And just for the record, I did say that while I would not generally split an infinitive I don’t care if others do!

  2. Stephanie Says:

    While this scam might not snare you or any other native English speaker (well, hopefully not anyway), it may well work on many others. What particularly springs to mind is those in the developing world, especially in African countries where many people have e-mail and internet access but not necessarily any knowledege or experience of how financial transactions should work from a legal and electronic point of view – or of online fraud for that matter – that would allow them to protect themselves.

    I do not wish to be taken to mean that Africans or any other person coming from less developed countries are unintelligent or illiterate, but from personal experience I can attest to the fact that some people will find messages like these very alluring. The offer of an inheritance combined with the mentions of illegal activity, the president of Nigeria, and the signing off by a priest are meant to evoke feelings of excitement, guilt, and pressure in the receiver all at once. On some, sadly, it will no doubt work.

  3. Richard Says:

    …or just maybe the good Reverend Iwo is somewhere in Africa sitting in a room filled with cash wondering why nobody will accept it! (Now where did I put my passport?).

  4. The same scam, with slight adjustments, has also been noted here:

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