Like everyone on the Internet, I have received my share of Internet scam letters, the so-called Nigerian 419s. "Please excuse my intrusion into your private life as I write you this letter in good faith and to the glory of almighty God …" is a typical start, followed by an intricate financial proposition. This fraud may look idiotic but it is so serious that even the U.S. Secret Service is involved in stamping it out.
Most of these spams supposedly come from no-name individuals, usually lawyers, but some come from widows of known leaders, such as the many from Mrs. Sani Abacha of Nigeria ("I am Mrs. Mariam Abacha, the widow of late Gen. Sani Abacha …").
I reflexively and immediately delete these nuisances. But not today. Somehow, receiving a spam today with the subject line "I Need Your Assistance; Suha Arafat," caught my attention. It's actually well done and savvy, despite several typos, so much so that I cannot resist providing the text of the letter here:
This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been following current events in the international media with reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular.
I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris.
Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister. I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment.
You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband secret bank account and companies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of about $6.5 Billion Dollars. And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman, hence my desire for a foreign assistance.
I have deposited the sum of 20 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity. This arrangement is known to you and my personal Attorney. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be.
In view of the above, if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits, we will have to negotiate on your Percentage share of the $20,000,000 that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter, Zahwa, will come off age and take full responsibility of her Family Estate/inheritance.
Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so, if you are hornet, I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children.
In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith. Please expedite action.
Tempted to follow this up? Sorry, I'm not giving out the return address. (November 13, 2004)
May 1, 2005 update: A scam letter arrived today from a supposed Mrs. Mariam Hussein (who was "married to Late Malam Usman Hussein of blessed memory") that has an unusual twist. Her husband died, she has but three months to live, and is looking to part her US$8.6 million somewhere his Christian convert relatives can't get their hands on. But let her explain, faulty spelling and all:
Having Known my Condition I decided to donate this fund to either a Moslem Organization Or devoted Muslim individual that will utilize this money the way I Am Going to instruct here- in. I want this Muslim organization or Individual to use this money in all sincererity to fund mosques, Orphanages, widows and also propagating the word of ALLAH and to Ensure that the Society upholds the views and beliefs of the holy Quran. The holy Quran Emphasized so much on ALLAH'S benevolence and this has encouraged me To Take this bold step.
I took this decision because I don't have any child that will Inherit This money and my husband relatives are new Christian's converts and I Don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by people I Call Unbelievers. I don't want a situation where this money will be used In An unholy manner.
You can assist Mrs. Mariam Hussein by sending your contact information and (after receiving a small deposit from you) she will send you the cold cash.
Comment: Were I sending out English-language scams, this is hardly the approach I would take; I wonder that anyone would think it a winning pitch.