Rant-Man’s Notebook: Scamming the Scammer

I get a lot of e-mail. If I go a day without checking all my addresses, I’ll usually have upwards of 60 e-mails piled up the next morning, not counting the stuff that gets zapped by the Spaminator.

One of the e-mails that I get a lot of, aside from offers to refinance my house or sell me viagra, is the famous Nigerian 419 letter. (419 is the section of the Nigerian criminal code that covers fraud.) These are the letters where some poor soul in Africa has found out about a pile of money sitting in a dead account somewhere, and they can only get it out by transferring it to a foreign bank account, and may we please use yours? Naturally, if you agree to this preposterous proposition, they will empty your account. Worse, there have been reports of people falling for the story and flying to Nigeria to collect the money, only to be kidnapped and robbed or murdered.

Like most people, I routinely deleted these letters. But about a week ago, while checking out the referral logs (a backstage part of Monkey Spit where we can see how many visitors we get, what pages they’re looking at, what site they linked from, etc.) to see where people are coming from, and in following the links I found myself at the Ebola Monkey’s Page (note, this site is not appropriate for children) and a whole new world opened up to me. The Ebola Monkey calls himself a “scam baiter;” he figures that every minute of the scammer’s time that he wastes is a minute when the dirtbag isn’t scamming somebody else. It’s a public service.

So of course I couldn’t wait to try it myself. In the tradition of 84 Charing Cross Road, and other great works of literature that used the device of recording correspondence, I present a conversation between one “Dr. Michael Steve,” A would-be scammer from Nigeria, and “Earlene Teel,” a middle-aged woman of my own creation. Enjoy.

It all started when I got this e-mail:

Sun, 06 Apr 2003 1:59 AM

DIRECT E-MAIL:michael_st20022000
TEL/FAX 234-8034-009050


Dear Sir,

I am DR. MICHAEL STEVE, an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). My position is very sensitive. I am married with children and holds degree in Accountancy and Business Studies. I am due for retirement any moment from now, after many years in service. I require urgently you unreserved assistance in providing me with safe and reliable BANK ACCOUNT with full details viz: Name and Address of the Bank, telephone and fax numbers of the Bank including the Beneficiary’s name anywhere in the World where I can transfer the sum of USD$35.5 Million only. The purpose of the transfer is to take care of my retirement by investing in variable business your might deem fit to advise.

Since the inception of the present Government, series of contracts have been awarded, based on this, the above sum (USD$35.5million) has shown in record as surplus of some of the over-invoiced contracts carried out in the last developmental quarter. Presently, I have arranged for the money to be kept in a coded bank account the with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) until I am able to source for a reliable Expatriate partner whom I can present as the Beneficiary of the funds. You will take the status of the contractor who executed the contract and I will arrange the supportive documents for the transfer.

35% will go to you for making available to us a company or personal Bank Account Number, giving me your unreserved assistance and keeping strictly the rules of this transaction until transfer of the funds is effected 5% is for any contingencies and all miscellaneous expenses incurred during the course of the transaction, procurement of vital documents, tips and all expenses including telephone/fax bills, taxes and bank charges must be reconciled upon confirmation of the payment by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 60% will be shares between me and few colleagues whose help will be highly needed throughout this period in question.

Everything about this transaction is real, the money is Clean, after putting in so many years in service, it is only normal for me to take good measures to secure my period in retirement. I have put in resources and time to bring this transaction to this level, which means that it represents a lot to me and hopefully with help from you, in just a matter of weeks, it shall come to mean a lot to you too as we meet in your country to celebrate to enable us commence effective process to finalize this matter.

Thanking you for anticipated co-operation.

Yours sincerely,


Well. Looks like we got a live one here. Let’s put out some bait and see if he takes it. So I invented Earlene Teel. I borrowed her first name from somebody I knew in college 20 years ago who wouldn’t go out with me, so this is payback, and her last name came from a guy I know who lives in Texas, and was chosen because it sounds a little rednecky. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sun, 06 Apr 2003 9:55 PM

Dear Dr. Steve,

That’s funny; my OB/GYN is named Steven, and I call him Dr. Steve! It makes it almost seem like I already know you. But oviously I don’t since you called me Sir. I’m not a sir, I’m a ma’am. My name is Earlene Teel.

Your e-mail has me a little confused, I’m not real sure wnat you want me to do. I don’t have no 35 million like you’re talking about, so I don’t see how I can help you. I’d like to help you if I could, I like to help people… I think God wants us to help people. So tell me how I can help you and I’ll do what I can and God will bless me for it, right?

Are you a Christian? My faith is real important to me, and I hope yours is too. The reason I ask is I just reread your letter again and in all that talking about this money with 60% this and 5% that and I don’t know what all, you didn’t say anything about tithing. You know that the tenth part belongs to the Lord and you need to give it to Him. Remember what Malachi 3:10 says– “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Anyway, I hope you are well and that you get this money thing straightened out. I know how hard it is to get by when you don’t have enough to make ends meet. But God always provides if you trust Him.


DING! We have a winner! Michael Steve is eager to make a deal…

Thur, 10 Apr 2003 5:18 AM

Dear Earlene,

thanks for your immediate responds for assisting me on this mutual business may God bless you.

Infact, i feel happy when i saw your message.Before we proceed, i will like to introduce my self to you. I am an accountant working with NNPC, am married with three children.So, i believe that God almighty father we serve will guide and protect us in this business.

As per the money we need to secure the documents from our variouse ministries here in Nigeria and the document will be send to you as the original contractor who execute the contract. Now, i need your name and your address or where you work so that we can use it to obtain the documents.You don’t need to have any bias mind towards this business because it’s 100% risk free.

I will be sending you my international passport so that you will know whom you are dealing with and you as well send me yours ok.

As soon as the money is transfered into your account, i will now arrange my family to come over for the sharing of the money and i will also look for lucratic business that i will intent to invest part of my money into.so, please i know you will handle this business with trust and believe you will not deny me as soon as the money get into your account. Send me your telephone number and your fax number where i can get in touch with you so easy.

Looking forwards to hear from you.
Thanks and God bless.
Dr. michael steve.


As I figured, he jumped on the religious angle. He’s going to make himself out to be the most righteous man since Enoch; surely such an upstanding man of God couldn’t possibly be a crook, right? Let’s find out…

Thu, 10 Apr 2003 7:27 AM

Dr. Steve,

How nice to hear from you. I think I should tell you a little more about myself since you were so good as to tell me about yourself. I’m 44 (but I look 35), married with no children (Homer wasn’t able to have them after the war wound), and we live in a mobile home park in Adelanto, California. That’s out by the Roy Rogers Museum. Do you like Roy Rogers movies? I think he was a great man, and good lookin’ too. Homer works at the prison as a guard, and I run a little antiques business and sell things on Ebay. Not a lot of money, but we get by.

Now, about this money, I’m still not real clear on what it is I’m supposed to do to help you. And you still haven’t said whether or not your going to tithe on this money like I asked you before. What church do you belong to? Do they teach tithing? If not, you need to get yourself into a good Assemblies of God church with a strong preacher to tell you the Word.

Anyway, I don’t have a passport, so I can’t send you that. I can scan a picture and send it if you want to see what I look like. I have a real cute one here. I also dont have a fax machine or anything like that, and I cant send you my phone number, because Homer always answers the phone and gets real jealous if its a man calling. He always thinks I’m cheeating on him, and its just not true! Well, there was that one time with the box boy at the Stop n Shop, but that was years ago and you would think he would be over it by now. I mean really!

So I think we should just keep this to email for the time being, cause Homer hates teh computer and wont go near it at all, so he never knows what email I’m getting or from who. He’s kinda dumb that way, but I love him anyhow.

Now, like I said before, I don’t have no 35 million dollars like you talked about in your first note, but I can send you maybe $20 if it will help you out of this jam your in. But I would think that an accountant like you wouldn’t have no money troubles. Are you a doctor of accounting? Or are you like a medical doctor, because I have this itchy thing on my arm that I’m a little worried about. Can you tell me about it?

Well, that’s about all for now. Thanks for writing me back, I love to have pen pals.


I thought this might have been too much; there’s no way he’s going to buy it. But lo and behold, here he comes again. Now at this point, I have to remind you not to feel sorry for this guy; he is the scum of the earth. He steals from little old ladies. He’s trying like hell to steal from Earlene right now. Do not feel sorry for him. He more than deserves whatever I do to him, okay?

Mon, 14 Apr 2003 7:45 AM

Attn: Mrs Earlene.
Dear Earlene,
I am in receipt of your messages and the contents were well understood. First of all I want to tell you that I am not a Medical Doctor, but a doctorate degree holder in Accountancy. Again, I want you to understand that my contact with you is a divine connection, because I was born into Assemblies of God Church, my Father is one of the Key elders that brought this Church to my Communication, at present I am still worshipping at Assemblies of God Church, No 3 Metropolitan College Road, Isolo, Lagos, Nigeria, it is a big Assembly here and the Reverened Pastor is a Man that God has been using to bless us and preach his Gospel in the right direction. Your suggestion that all our communications should be through E-mail to avoid the interference of your Husband is duly welcomed by me.

If you dont have any international passport, it is still okay, what you will do is to Scan your picture and send it to me, I will do so as well, besides, the USD$20 you want to send to me is not the problem, but to secure the USD$35.5 Milllion involved in this business that I am introducing to you. The USD$35.5 Million I am talking about is a Commission realized from a Contract executed by a Foreign Company in our Corporation (NNPC), but as civil Servants we cannot claim this money on our own without presenting a Foreign Partner as the claimant, that is why I wrote to you so that we can present you to claim the money here. This USD$35.5 Million is in a bank here, all you need to do is to open an account with the bank here and when the account has been activated, the USD$35.5 Million will be deposited in that account, then the fund will be transfered from this bank account to any of your bank in USA or any other place, then myself and other two colleagues involved in this business will come over to USA to receive our share because we intend investing our share in USA. As an oustanding Born again Christian, I understand the essence of paying tithe and it should be done accordingly when the money arrives to you. I hereby give you the datas of the bank now so that you can contact them for the account activation, thus:- FIRST CITY MONUMENT BANK.You will be required to open the account ONLINE, therefore, I hereby forward the WEBSITE of the bank to you so that you can contact them immediately for more information, the website is www.1stcitymbank.com When you open the aforementioned site, CLICK on ONLINE BANKING, then another page will open for you, then CLICK on “YOU DONT HAVE AN ACCOUNT? OPEN ONE NOW,CLICK HERE”. and another page will open again for an ACCOUNT OPENING FORM”, then fill the empty spaces as contained therein, after-which you will finally CLICK on the SUBMIT Column and send the filled information to the Bank and as soon as they receive your information, they will contact you immediately with more details on when they are to effect your transfer.

You should ensure that you always get me informed with your regular communication with the bank because I can only know the progress through you, hence I will expect you to confirms to me that they have given you the account number as soon as it has been activated. If you need further information, please dont hesitate to get in touch with me immediately.
Thanks and Best Regards,

Yours in Christ,
Dr Michael Steve.

Mon, 14 Apr 2003 2:22 PM

Dear Michael,

May I call you Michael? Dr. Steve just sounds so formal, and I think we’ve become good enough friends to just use first names. I’m so glad to hear that your a good church-going man. Its so refreshing to find one these days. When Homer and I started dating, he told me he was a christian, but after we got married I figured out that he was lying. He only went to church when I asked him to, and now he doesn’t go at all. The Bible says we’re not supposed to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, so I’ve been thinking about leaving him, but I didnt want to be alone.

After you get this money, are you planning to stay in the usa? I really think we have something of a relationship developing here. But there’s time enough to talk about that later.

I tried to set up that bank account like you asked me to, but I couldn’t get it to work. It said that my “browser” is too old and doesn’t support 128-bit encryption, whatever that is. I think they mean my Netscape, or it’s because my computer is really old and its a macintosh that my nephew gave me so I could get email. Its really slow, but the new ones are so expensive. I’ll call my nephew and ask him if he can help me get this set up for you. He’s a good boy. His name is Jimmy and he’s my sister Bobbie Sue’s son. I’m sure he can help me, but I might have to tell him about the money. Is that okay?

One more thing about this money, it sounds like maybe your not supposed to take it if you have to go through all this stuff to get it, asking me to open a bank account for you and all that. Is this stealing? I mean I’m flattered that you asked me. Homer thinks I’m too stupid to handle money. I swear I’m beginning to hate that man, especially since I found you.

All my love,

Surely the photo will scare him off. I have no idea who this person is; I thought about what names might have been popular around 1958 or so, settled on one, typed it into Google’s image search, and found this picture. She has nothing to do with this, so if you know her, let me know if she has a sense of humor. If not, I’ll apologize.

Later on Monday, I got another piece of scam-spam. This time it’s a fake lottery, so I worked it into the narrative…

Mon, 14 Apr 2003 3:55 PM

My darling Michael,

i can’t stop thinking about you. I hope you liked the photo I sent you. My nephew Jimmy scanned it for me. Please send your picture soon.

Good news! I won a lottery! I got this e-mail today. It says I’m not supposed to tell anybody yet, but i trust you. Funny thing is, they want me to give them my bank account number so they can transfer the money to me. Won’t that be funny? Do you think the bank people will be surprised if I get a transfer of $2,500,000, and then get another one with the $35 million you’re sending! I bet the teller’s eyes will pop.

As soon as I get this lottery money, I’m leaving Homer and coming to Nigeria. Won’t that be great?


Here’s the e-mail about the lottery:


REF:OYL / 26410660038/02
BATCH: 26/00919/IPD

Dear Sir / Madam,

We are pleased to inform you of the announcement Today, 13th APRIL 2003, of winners of the BANK GIRO PROMO LOTTERY THE NETHERLANDS, INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM held on 6th January 2003.

Your name is attached to the ticket number 0233-0148-1733-326; with serial number 5073-22 drew the lucky numbers 43-11-44-37-10-43, and consequently won the lottery in the 3rd category.

You have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay of US$ 2,500.000.00 in cash credited to file REF NO.OYL/25041238013/02.This is from total prize money of US$50,400.000.00 shared among the Seventeen International winners in this category. All participants were selected through a computer Ballot system drawn from 25,000 names from AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, AMERICA EUROPE, NORTH AMERICA and ASIA as part of international promotions program, which is conducted annually.


Your fund is now deposited with a security company insured in your name .Due to the mix up of some numbers and names. We ask that you keep this award strictly from public notice until your claim has been processed and your money remitted to your account.

This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants of this program. We hope with a part of your prize you will participate in our end of our year high stakes US$1.3billion international lottery.

To begin your claim, please contact your claim agent:

E-mail: vlanghouth@consutant.com. For due processing and remittance of your prize money to a designated account of your choice. Remember, all prize money must be claimed not later than 30th April 2003. After this date, all funds will be returned as unclaimed.

NOTE: In order to avoid unnecessary delays and complication, please remember to quote your reference and batch numbers in every one of your correspondences with your agent.

Furthermore, should there be any change of your address, do inform your claims agent as soon as possible. Congratulations again from all our staff and thank you for being part of our
promotions program.



Tues, 15 Apr 2003 3:44 PM

I am in receipt of your message and the contents were well understood including your scanned picture, I will surely send mine to you immediately but that will be in my next correspondence because I dont know how to do it myself, so I have to go to a nearby internet Cafe to do it for me. I have developed alot of interest in you because there are alot of things that holds us in common, I wouldn’t go too far now. I am not just a church goer, but an outstanding Christian from Birth. You should understand when someone is born into Assenblies of God Church, he or she should be a discplined person as you should know that the doctrines of Assemblies of God Church differs from what the World is doing now.
If Homer has been deep in Christ, he will not watch a day past without talking to God. Anyway, lets go straigth to the point. It could have been very excellent if you have communicated with the Bank by yourself instead of involving Jimmy as you would not want your Husband to know about the business because whatever two people hears is no more a confidential issue, therefore, in my own opinion I would have advised that Jimmy should be left alone in this aspect of the bank. What you need is an updated Computer or you go to any nearby Internet Cafe around your city to do the browsing.
Concerning the Lotttery issue, I will advise you to forget everything about it because it is doesn’t work, I have been deceived in Spain before through the same process. How do you think that you can win a lottery in Amsterdam, it is a bullshit story.
The business we have in hand is what matters for now and if everything goes well we are sure to meet soon, you can as well fly to Nigeria any time you wish because I am here for you. I am a tall handsome Man of 7 Feet, so everything you need in a Man is complete in me, but not that I am encouraging you to abandon your Homer. I have arranged with a Lawyer here now to open the account in the bank on your behalf, so what he needs from you is a scanned passport Photograph and some opening balance amount for the account, and I forgot to ask the lawyer how much it will cost to open the account in that bank, I will do so tomorrow and get back to you.
The Bank will need two references for you to open the account, that is why I involved the Services of the Lawyers to do so since it has been very difficult for you to link up with the Bank through your internet PC.
I informed the Lawyers that the account is being opened in your name, so they believe that you are in charge of everything, so I am acting as if I am just there to assist you. I am not stealing this money, but if I dont take the money as it has come my way, others will take it, that means that I am a foolish Person. With such amount available I will pay my tithes and help the needys, buy a carnal Man will just use it for his personal enjoyments. It is good for the Children of God to be rich rather than devilish peopel, read Isaiah 45 Verse 2 & 5, Jeremaiah 33 verse 3, Phillipines 4 verse 6 & 7.
If you cannot connect to website of the bank now, all you need to do is to arrange for a coloured passport photograph and send it to me, give the full name and address you would want them to use in opening the account. Any address you provide for the opening of the account will be alright for it and then I will inform you tomorrow how much it will cost to activate the account in the bank.
I want you to be happy always and be joyful to almight Jesus. I will arrange for some of Video crusades here and send it to you through any courier Service because I know it will uplift your faith more. We dont do anything here than to worship God because Life is not easy in this Third world Countries as it is in America. I will appreciate your urgent response to this message. Thanks and God be with you.
From: Steve.

Tue, 15 Apr 2003 4:04 PM

Sweet Michael,

I’m glad you liked the photo.

Don’t worry about Jimmy. i haven’t told him anything at all. I had him scan my picture for me and I asked him about how I can get a better computer. There aren’t any internet cafes around here, I live in the middle of the California desert a hundred miles from anywhere. I hate it here, but Homer took this job at the prison after he got out of the marines and now I’m stuck here. At least I was stuck here until I got the e-mail from you. you’re my lifeline, my rescuer. As soon as this money thing is done, I’ll be able to get away from the loud stupid oaf.

What about you? Are you going to leave your wife and children, or am I just a fling for you?

Anyway, I’m waiting to hear back from Jimmy about the computer (don’t worry, I won’t tell him anything, and anyway, he hates Homer and never talks to him) since I can’t get to an internet cafe. And like I told you before, I don’t have a passport, so I don’t have a passport photo to send you. I’ll try to find out where to get one. I’ve never been out of California, so I’m really excited about going to Nigeria! Do the people there like Americans? I know some countries don’t especially with all this war stuff.

Maybe you could loan me the money to get the new computer, and then I can pay you back when we get this $35 million straightened out? IS that possible?

You’re really 7 feet tall? Wow! I want to see your picture, I want to see what my hero looks like!

Love always,

Wed, 16 Apr 2003 10:13 AM

My Love!
Thanks for your instant response to my message and the contents were well understood. It is terrible for one to be stucked in a particular place for a longer time, it is makes life very boring, you will be out of that mess soon. It is nice that you kept the entire information out of Jimmy. As far as I have found true Love anything can happen to my marriage, all I need is my happiness and to respect the Word of God. We shall come to that aspect later. As a matter of fact, the Lawyers has completed the necessary documents for the opening of the account on your behalf with First City Monument Bank and all that is required from you now is to send to them an opening balance of USD$1,250 to activate the account so that the USD$35.5 Million can be deposited in that account before it will be finally wired to USA. The Lawyers believe that the money belongs to you and they are expecting this USD$1,250 to be sent to them from USA to activate the account in the bank, so it is not advisable for me to make it known to the Lawyers that I am part of the money, in this case, if you dont have USD$1,250, please look for somebody to give you a Loan now and send it to the lawyer here now so that they can activate the account in the bank to enable us deposit the USD$35.5M. We hope to pay the Loan back on Tuesday next week with an interest on top and then you can go to any good shop to buy a quality Computer for your use.
We want to ensure that the account is activated tomorrow because without its activation, the USD$35.5 Million cannot be received by the bank. You will send the USD$1,250 to the Lawyer through WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER OR MONEY GRAM, it is the fastest way of sending money world-wide and it will be received in a hours time afters sending it. All you need to do is to send to me the name, Control numbers and question & answer code of the sender and the amount sent, as soon as it is received here, the Lawyer will pick the money from the western Union Money transfer or Money Gram Office here and pay it to the bank for the activation of the account. Go to your post Office or any nearby Bank to you and enquire from them the Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram office in your city, they will explain to you. This is the particulars of the lawyer for the purpose of sending the USD$1,250 to him, thus:-
I have gone to a nearby internet cafe around my city but they told me that their Computers are on repair because of Virus problems and they have asked me to come on Friday morning for the scanning of my picture which I will forward to you as soon as the internet cafe is in order. I am very happy with you and will not wait longer to meet you.
I wish you the best of luck and God Bless.
Yours Love,
Dr Michaels.

Wed, 16 Apr 2003 10:34 AM

Dear one,

I’m trying to borrow the money from my nephew. I hope he’ll give it to me today. Then I can set up this account and do that money transfer thing for you.

Once that’s done, I’ll be able to be free of Homer and I can come to you.

I’m so glad you warned me about that lottery being fake. If I had given them my bank account information like they asked, would they have been able to take my money? That’s terrible.

I’ll e-mail you again as soon as I hear from Jimmy about the loan.


Wed, 16 Apr 2003 2:46 PM

I am in receipt of your instant reply to my message of today 16th April 2003 and the contents were well understood. I will be very glad and grateful if you can get the money and send it to the Lawyer today as I earlier specified to you because we need to conclude everything about the account activation by tomorrow morning (our Time) to ensure that the money in question is credited to the account for onward transfer.
We will pay an interest on the money borrowed, so that is not the problem. I am urging to meet you soon. This is my direct telephone number 00 234-1-7754429 incase you need to talk to me anytime, you can give me a short call from a public phone just to tell me some nice words.
My almighty Jesus will grant you eternal joy and happiness.
Stay well and keep yourself clean. I am expecting your urgent message.
Thanks and Good Luck.
Love from,
Dr Michael.

Keep yourself clean??? Time for a change of players. Next up is Earlene’s husband Homer.

Wed, 16 Apr 2003 2:57 PM

What the hell is this?

My name is Homer Teel and I want to know just what the hell is going on here. I thought my wife was acting wierd shutting down the computer every time I walked in the room so I made her show me her email and she told me all about you. Typical foreigner tryin to steal my woman. Well okay you can have her!!! I’m throwing the stupid tramp out of the house so you probally wont be able to email her anymore but I went through all the notes you sent her and if you want somebody to help you get this money out of that bank youll have to deal with me, got it? Ill set up an account and let you know when its up and then youll give me the money right?

You arent going to give me any crap about it either and you aren’t going to steal my wife either!!!


I wonder how long I can yank this guy’s chain?

Try it, it’s fun!

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