What Cyberspace has come to call Nigerian scam letters -- Nigeria seems to have evolved into the computer-age Earth center of digital scamsters -- is actually the modern avatar of a much older scam / ripoff whose hopeful fingers reach for the wallets of suckers via uninvited text.
The original surprise offer came in the form of a handwritten letter, and told a tragic story of a fabulously wealthy Spanish nobleman unjustly imprisoned in some dark and hopeless dungeon. The letter was written by his frantic beautiful young daughter, who was herself without friends or financial means.
But if the recipient of her letter was honest, and of good heart and intentions, and had a modest amount of money to invest, all that was needed to free The Spanish Prisoner was a little up-front cash with which to bribe the jailers, and then her Noble Father could be free, regain access to his great fortune, and would very generously reward any good stranger who heeded his daughter's plea and helped him achieve his freedom.
The first Spanish Prisoner letters seem to have appeared late in the 19th century. They must have worked, somebody must have hosed up some sucker bucks from strangers, because, in one lingo and pathetic story or another, scamsters have been grinding out these letters / e-mails steadily for more than a century.
The letters keep coming, and it's a well-documented and miserable fact that the suckers keep biting.
The USA playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, who has a particular fondness for stories involving scams and confidence games, made an ultra-outre movie called "The Spanish Prisoner." I can say no more. Just rent it and watch it. For a real creepy double feature, also rent Mamet's "House of Games." Then come back here and Leave A Comment.
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the David Mamet joke
It's intermission outside a Chicago legit theater, and a patron smoking a cigarette is approached by a panhandler who hits the theater guy up for a buck.
The theater patron looks at the panhandler, and says
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."
The panhandler replies
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Anyway, I don't use my e-mail spam filter. I love to see what Strangers in Cyberspace have to offer me, I love their lurid, bizarre stories, their promises of fantastic rewards, unimaginable treasures, if I will just help out with a very modest cash investment.
I also love their astonishingly colorful and often failed attempts at writing English.
This one sticks out like a blazing neon sign because it's in near-perfect -- hell, okay, perfect -- English.
Can you squeeze any hints or clues or klews or aromas or accents out of it that might point to Tom's e-mail's point of origin, or Tom's background? Leave A Comment.
Of course if this sad plea for assistance has captured your heart and you want to help Tom's ailing Cousin, msg me and I'll send you the aol.com addie Thomas C. provided.
This could be a matter of Life and Death.
----- Original Message -----
From: Thomas C. McCarthy
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2013 9:31 AM
Subject: very important,
Sorry to bother you with this. Am presently in Spain with my ill Cousin. She's suffering from a Kidney disease and must undergo surgery to save her life. I am deeply sorry for not writing or calling you before leaving, the news of her illness arrived to me as an emergency and that she needs family support to keep her going, I hope you understand my plight and pardon me.
The surgery is very cheap here in Spain, I am wondering if you can be of any assistance to me, I need the balance of 2,500 euro to make the necessary arrangement, I traveled with little money due to the short time I had to prepare for this trip and never expected things to be the way it is right now. I'll surely pay you back once I get back home, The surgery needs to be done as soon as possible because she is going through a lot of pain at the moment and the doctor have advised that she has to be operated on time to avoid complications. I will appreciate whatever amount you can come up with if not all. Please get back to me.