Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Advance fee fraud has a long history

Thanks to last month's Digital Human on Radio 4, I now know that the spam-checker-avoiding emails which occasionally hit my in-box and which are clearly a prelude to a breach of clause 419 of Nigeria's criminal code , have their origin in the days of the penny-post and the telegraph. The classic scam was known as the Spanish prisoner swindle, and is described here. The example letter quoted is remarkably similar in terms to those emails purporting to come from Africans wanting to smuggle hot money out of their country.

Castle-fort of Barcelona
22nd December 1893
Mr. W. _____
Dear Sir - Notwithstanding having not the pleasure of being aquainted with you, I taken the liberty of writing you this letter in order to trust you with a secret that I never had thought to be obliged to entrust nobody with, but the sufferings that I am induring in this prison and my love for a young daughter of 16 years old who is in the actuality in a collge in Badajoz to make you my revelation, in the hope that you will be good enough as to help me recover a sum of 840,000 pesetas (33,600l) in gold money and french bank-notes that I was one day constrained to hide in the neighbourhood of your locality.

- and so on.

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