Some people still aren't sure the scam is a scam.
They seem to think they need a web site to tell them what's up.
This from a medium which didn't exist ten years ago.
So here is a checklist to help decide.
We hope your Spidey sense was tingling before you found this page,
but if it helps keep you out of trouble, that will be great. Safe surfing!


  • is the letter or e-mail from a stranger
  • does the writer claim to be the wife, son, assistant, attaché or banker to some famous (conveniently dead) person
  • does the writer claim to be a Chief, Prince, Doctor, Minister, etc.
  • do the words "secret" or "confidential" appear
  • did the writer find you "through the internet", or some directory or organization you never heard of
  • is the letter addressed to "dear CEO" even though you're a retired dentist or wheat farmer?
  • is the e-mail From: and To: the same person, or are there hundreds of other e-mail addresses in the Cc: section of this ultra-secret e-mail?

Are heaps of money supposedly coming your way because
  • kickbacks from a business contract are being laundered
  • a relative with maybe (coincidentally) the same last name as you has died heirless
  • the writer's father (murdered by his associates) left the money in boxes with a 'security' company and the writer has to pay the security company to get the deposit out of hock

[ This section is the kicker. The details don't matter. Alarm bells should be flashing. It doesn't matter if the writer uses a slightly different name than last week, or supposedly heads an orphanage or is a reformed killer. It doesn't matter if his writing is stellar and arrives on parchment. You could stop reading here. ]

  • are you asked for your bank account information
  • are you asked for your phone or fax number
  • is the phone/fax number in West Africa or Holland or the Philippines?
  • is it a satellite phone? (starts with 874)
  • is the writer using a free e-mail provider (yahoo, caramail, arabmail, maktoob, rediffmail, hotmail, etc.)
  • does the writer use several e-mail accounts and ask you to switch for 'security reasons'?
  • is the writer supposedly in a refugee camp - a camp with an internet cafe?
  • does the writer ask you to log on to an online bank account set up for you

  • does the writer refer to online newspaper stories about prominent foreigners, hoping that because these people exist, you will believe the writer is somehow connected with them
  • does the writer use poor spelling, mangled grammar and overblown imagery
  • does the writer mention God a lot, or his conversion to whichever religion he thinks you practice?
  • does the writer talk about 'coming over' to your country to get an education, or raise his orphaned sister, or buy real estate or invest under your guidance (even though you're 14 years old)
  • does the writer send pictures of money? lame-looking certificates? 'family' photos obviously snipped from the daily paper?
  • does the writer eventually say that there will be "demurrage" or other fees to collect the imaginary money?

Last but really first: do you honestly believe that someone who claims to have stolen millions of dollars is
  • someone you want to deal with
  • smart enough to steal a LOT of money but somehow unable to move the funds on his own
  • will transfer it to a complete stranger (you) in hopes that you will give back 80% of it


The e-mail header may indicate where the e-mail really came from.


Even if the letter apparently came from the head of your local PTA, or the Red Cross, or the BBC, would it matter? It's a scam. But you knew that. Don't make us come over there and slap you around.

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