African scams

I received the following e-mail this morning from an African friend (name withheld); I believe his address has been hacked:


How are you,I am in hurry writing this mail to you, I traveled to Nigeria yesterday to visit the new researcher’s complex in lagos, Unfortunately for me all my money,diaries and my return ticket was stolen at the hotel where i lodged, I am so confused right now,I don’t know what to do or where to go,I didn’t bring my phone here and the hotel telephone line’s was burnt during the robbery incident,so i have access to only emails, Please can you send me $1,650 usd today so i can return home, As soon as i get home i would refund it immediately.I want you to send it through western union outlet.Write me so i can let you know how to send it.


Now there are at least seven problems with this message: (1) Nothing in the e-mail indicates his relationship to me, e.g., when or where he met me; (2) This correspondant has always written to me in French; (3) It doesn’t cost $1650 US to return from Lagos to his home country (perhaps $200 by bus); (4) If he could pay me back when he got home, why not have someone from home wire him the money instead? (5) No African I know would leave his cash in his hotel room for the staff to steal. (6) He used his full name to sign off instead of only his first name which has been his custom in the past; also he has always addressed me in his e-mails with my first name, never just “hello”; (7) The story about the telephone lines at the hotel being burnt is highly implausible.

Here are my recommendations:

(1) I suggest that correspondents stop using yahoo for e-mail. Ever since Governor Sarah Palin had her e-mail hacked I’ve stopped using yahoo, and this is third African friend who has had his yahoo account infiltrated. Gmail is a good substitute.

(2) When at a cyber cafe never leave your terminal without logging off of your e-mail account. Take security measures like erasing browsing history when leaving the terminal.

(3) Use a sophisticated alphanumeric password.

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