Although it may seem as if this scam only began in earnest with the invention of email, in fact, the scam itself is just a variation of a scam that is more than four hundred years old when it was called the Spanish Prisoner Con. At that time a letter was sent to the targeted victim purportedly from someone on behalf of a wealthy aristocrat who was imprisoned in Spain under a false name. The identity of the nobleman was not revealed for security reasons, but the victim was asked to help raise money to obtain the release of the aristocrat, who, it was promised, would reward the money-contributing victim with great sums of money and, in some versions of the con, the Spanish prisoner’s beautiful daughter in marriage.
In the more recent incarnations of this scam, you receive an email in which you are promised great sums of money if you assist a Nigerian in his effort to transfer money out of his country. Other variations include the movement of embezzled funds by corrupt officials, a dying gentleman who wants to make charitable gifts or a minor bank official who is trying to move the money of deceased foreigners out of his bank without the government taking it. Similar scams have managed to keep up with the news by having the money to be moved tied to fallen dictators such as Sadaam Hussein or Moamar Khadaffi.
What all of these scams have in common is that soon after agreeing to help, you learn that money is needed to be sent by you for lawyer fees, bribes, insurance and other costs. The reward is always just around the corner and the fees keep mounting.
There are a number of ways to confirm that the email you are receiving is a scam including a careful review of the email address, however, you do not need to even go that far in your considerations. Although you may want to open the email (so long as you do not click on to any links) for sheer entertainment purposes, all of these scenarios are scams. Just ask yourself, why are you being singled out for this email? You are not. The emails are sent out all over the Internet. Don’t be a victim. Do not respond to the email in any fashion. If you do, you will be hounded.