Questions:

  1. Are the Nigerians really dangerous?
  2. What are your true feelings about them?
  3. What if the offer is real?
  4. How do you do the newpaper clippings?
  5. Have you ever met one of the Nigerians?
  6. Where do you get the photos from?
  7. Can they get into your bank account?
  8. Where is the sting?
  9. Have you ever tried to reverse the scam, to get money from the Nigerians?
  10. Is it a franchise?
  11. How do they get your name?
  12. How much do they ask for?
  13. Do you really speak to them on the phone?
  14. What sex are you?
  15. Why do you write as a woman sometimes?
  16. Are you a professional writer?
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  18. Why do you kill off so many of your characters?
  19. How much time do you spend writing these letters?
  20. What is you favourite story?
Are the Nigerians really dangerous?
At a distance I don't think so. I wouldn't like to be in the same room as them. I think they get annoyed with my letters but not enough to try to find me. Have that chiselled on my headstone.

OK. OK, glibly said. But Yes, they can be dangerous. It is fun to mock them and to tease them but when there is big money involved people can get very serious about it. And the duller their minds, the blunter their methods.

I take some comfort that they do not seem to be in Australia. Certainly they have never tried to arrange a meeting in Australia. Yet.
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What are your true feelings about them?
I have mixed feelings about them. They are obviously deceiving people and separating them from large amounts of money. But are they really any different to those cosmetic companies that sell 'anti-aging' creams? They know they don't work but people, hopeful to the end, will pay enormous amounts of money for them.

[An aside: my wife was given a free small tub (tublette) of one of these anti-wrinkle eye creams and told to try it for a month; told she would be amazed at the difference. She used it for the allotted month and then returned to the cosmetics counter where the girl oozed enthusiasm for how much better she looked. "Fine" said my wife, "tell me which eye I used it on." You see, for one month she had diligently applied it to only one eye. There was no difference.]

I have more respect for the Nigerians working these schemes than I do for the victims who fall for them. They fell for the story but it was their greed that got them there. If no one took up the 'offers' then the whole thing would fall over. Remember: it is not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money.
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What if the offer is real?
A common question but one where greed is clouding commonsense. If it sounds too good to be true, believe me, it is.

Ask yourself the question: if you had knowledge of a pile of money (say $25 million) and needed someone somewhere to provide an account to receive that money...would you trust a stranger you found by potluck on the internet? Or would you quietly broach the subject with family and friends that you knew and could trust? Exactly!

Even if they really did have the money, it is not yours and to participate in the 'transfer' is to participate in a criminal act. That is why I suspect so few of the actual victims report that they have been had.

Apply the J Cosmo Newbery Scam Test Click here.

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How do you do the newpaper clippings?
Microsoft Word. I may expand this into a 'how to' guide at a later date. The bank documents and more graphical things are done using Filemaker Pro. (Yeah, I know it is a database but the graphics are really easy to use. I'm big on 'easy'.)
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Have you ever met one of the Nigerians?
Nope. Don't particularly want to but I wouldn't mind sitting down for a chat with Dr Shamsudeen Usman (Madame Yotta story), he intrigues me. He is smarter than average.
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Where do you get the photos from?
Newsgroups.
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Can they get into your bank account?
I don't think so. I suspect the asking for bank details is more a test to see if you are willing to make yourself vulnerable to them. I have never heard of them going back to the accounts. Mine are all false numbers and branches anyway. They have never come back and said that they had tried to put a squillion dollars in the bank but the account number was wrong.
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Where is the sting?
Fees, bribes, taxes, governmental lubrication. Often they will tell you how much money that they have outlayed on your behalf; mortgaged the house, the wife, the wildebeest, to pay for everything ...there is just one teensy weensy little tax bill that they cannot cover. Do you think you could see your way clear to pay it? They will back this up with a multitude of false receipts to 'prove' that they have pawned everything on your behalf. Trust me, they haven't.
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Have you ever tried to reverse the scam, to get money from the Nigerians?
I have thought about trying to reverse the scam but the Nigerians are very gun shy when it comes to sending money. In many ways I am not too upset by this. If there was money involved they may come and try to retrieve it, there by upsetting my carefully planned weekends by loitering around the Camelias in the front yard and needlessly distressing my wife. While I am just sticking my literary tongue out at them they will probably leave me alone.

I did get four banknotes to the value of 180 Naira from Kenneth (Felicity Primm story) - equivalent to US$1.25. Lovely banknotes, I'll be seriously out of pocket as I will have them framed.

So, yes, a good deal of good red wine has been consumed discussing the possibility of doing the reverse scam but I am not optimistic.
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Is it a franchise?
I have called it the Amway of Nigeria. Perhaps 'Scamway'. This is no disrespect to Amway just an observation that the seems to be a proliferation of practicioners. I suspect that they are following a kit of instructions and using a purchased mailing list.

From July 31st to December 15th, 2002 I have received 121 faxes from them. All different letterheads, all different names and all cold calling. Coincidence?

But it is self-defeating for them. If you got a fax and were dazzled by the prospect of early retirement, before you could respond you get another offer, and another,and...it does nothing for their credibility.
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How do they get your name?
My early contacts definitely came through published company lists (they were addressed to the company, arrived by mail, often with false stamps) but more recently they have been just mailing through the public email registers. The recent burst of faxes seem to be too much for just coincidence - somewhere that fax number, but with no company details as they never address the fax to the company, is on a list that they can bulk fax.
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How much do they ask for?
The idea is to get a little out off you and then keep asking for just a bit more, just one more tax bill, one more problem... You, the sucker, are aware that you have lost money and are supposed to keep shelling out in the hope that eventually you will recover it all. You wont.

The first sting is often just a few thousand dollars (just!) but I have been asked for as much as $35,000 on the first bite. Just where they think I keep money like that is anyone's guess. Probably reflects a broad misunderstanding of the Western lifestyle. (Mine, at least!)

They may start to change their techniques as they shift from tackling small companies and move on to the general public. They are dealing with a different disposable income.
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Do you really speak to them on the phone?
Sometimes. I have a line that used to be for my computer before cable so I can choose whether to answer it or not. It is either Nigerians or market researchers. The nigerians like to ring. They can be more convincing, more insistent on the phone. All I do is agree with them and use the emails as the bearers of bad news when I can't deliver. I never ring them.
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What sex are you?
Male.
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Why do you write as a woman sometimes?
I try to try to complicate life for the Nigerians. By throwing lust into the equation it compromises their feelings for their victim - it can be harder to hurt someone who may be able to consummate the business deal in a totally different way. In a similar way I threw 'hate' into the ring when I wrote as John Smith.
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Are you a professional writer?
No. Keen amateur.
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Why do you kill off so many of your characters?
Quite a few people have asked me this.

Look at it from the Nigerian's point of view. They have spent a lot of time corresponding with the character and I purposely try to build emotional (love or hate) links to the Nigerian. If they get to the final push to get the money and find out that the character has died it has a much greater 'jolt' to their system than just having the character say 'You dopey bastard, I always knew it was a scam. You're not getting my money. Piss off.'.

It has an even better effect if the character actually dies because they are getting the money; it may give the Nigerian a twinge of guilt (albeit quite small) that they wouldn't get if the character didn't die. Until they realize that they have been 'had' of course. And then the deeper their concern for the character's well-being, the harder to swallow the news that they never existed at all.
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How much time do you spend writing these letters?
At one time I had five stories on the go at once and did little else, especially when there was supporting documents to produce (newspapers etc).

Things are less frenetic now and I only do one story at a time and probably put in an hour every second night.
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What is you favourite story?
I have favourite bits in all of them. And, being as they are done on the fly, in real time, with no time to rework and 'sex-up' the correspondence, they all have rough bits and slow moments.

All things considered, my favourite story was Don Quixote.

But my favourite character was Princess Tikka Masala.
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