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« Rediscovering Rouault | Main | What is CT Thinking? »

May 30, 2007

The Canine Prisoner

English_bulldog_puppy You've probably gotten an email that reads something like this:

DEAR SIR,

CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL

HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS. THE ABOVE SUM RESULTED FROM AN OVER-INVOICED CONTRACT, EXECUTED COMMISSIONED AND PAID FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS (5) AGO BY A FOREIGN CONTRACTOR. THIS ACTION WAS HOWEVER INTENTIONAL AND SINCE THEN THE FUND HAS BEEN IN A SUSPENSE ACCOUNT AT THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA APEX BANK.

This is what's known as a "Nigerian 419 scam." Despite the name, it's actually a variation on a classic con known as "The Spanish Prisoner." It's hard to believe that anyone would fall for this scam but apparently people do.

(The ubiquity of this scam and others like it has, in turn, prompted an Internet subculture comprised of people who seek to scam the scammers. Known as "scam-baiters," their goal is to humiliate would-be scammers by using the scammers' greed against them. Their antics, which are the subject of this article in the current Atlantic Monthly, often verge on the cruel, although, I must admit, funny.)

Now, according to the Los Angeles Times, scammers have found something besides Taliban gold and Nigerian petro-dollars to lure would-be dupes: puppies.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. and the American Kennel Club today plan to issue a warning about fraudulent websites, MySpace postings and print ads asking people to help save puppies who are in desperate straits.

The sites and ads usually show adorable puppies that somehow have become stuck in Nigeria or other countries, and are offered free to new owners. A variation is to offer the puppies, such as purebred English bulldogs — a particularly expensive breed — at vastly discounted prices.

All you need to do to get one of these adorable critters is to pay -- you guessed it -- advance fees to facilitate the transfer. Of course, to paraphrase Mayor Shinn from The Music Man, there is no dog -- there never has been a dog. There's only human greed and those who take advantage of it.

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