The other great hazard on the Internet are the scams. They are many and varied, and all intended to separate you from your money. In all cases, the con artist praises you for your honesty and integrity and says he only found you after extensive research, or you were specially recommended to him by an unnamed mutual friend. The truth is he hopes you are seriously lacking in common sense and he simply spammed half the planet at the same time.

The Nigerian Letter, or 419 Scam, or Advance Fee Fraud

Supposedly first seen in 1920, although not originally as an email of course. You receive an email purporting to be from someone related to some famous person who has recently been killed (and which you can verify by Googling for news about them) and saying they have inherited a lot of money, or are the executors of their estate, or whatever. They need your help because, would you believe it, there's some beaurocratic bungle and they need a foreigner to help them get the money out of the country and into a Swiss bank account. They promise you a share of the money concerned, usually many millions of dollars. What can go wrong? Well it starts off innocently enough, they want to meet you, will you come and visit them? No? Well will you send them the money for a flight and they'll come and see you. Then it's one thing after another, first they need to pay a bribe, then there's some solicitor's fees, and each time you are suckered into sending a little more money. And they keep going until you run out of money. It's called a 419 scam because Nigeria outlawed it years ago under Section 419.

The Lottery Scam

Ever won a lottery you didn't now you were in? No, of course you didn't. But you might well receive an email from abroad from someone purporting to be a solicitor or agent telling you that you have won a huge fortune on their national lottery, and for a small fee they will help you recover it. What can we say? It isn't ever true, it's another variation on the Advance Fee Fraud.

The National Representative Scam

You might receive an email from a legitimate-seeming foreign business offering you a position as their representative, or intermediary, or account manager, or exchange manager or something along those lines. There may even be the promise of an attractive salary, but usually the reward is a commission on the cheques from their "customers" you are to deposit into your bank account on their behalf. Sounds simple, you bank cheques and send them 95% of the face value. Not until weeks after you have started your new "job" does the bank give you the bad news - the cheques you have deposited are worthless and the funds you have forwarded cannot be recovered.

The Foreign Job Offer Scam

This is one where an employment agency tells you of undreamed of riches in foreign lands. They promise to find you a dream job, they will circulate your cv to all their high-powered contacts, and the best of it is, you only have to pay if you get a job offer. You can't lose. But guess what? You always get a job offer. The conmen set up a fancy-looking web site for a non-existent company which is the one that offers you this fabulous job at a salary you can't believe. You accept the job and pay the fee, a very happy new-recruit. Eventually you realise neither of them ever existed, hopefully before you've handed your notice in.

The Romance Scam

Similar to the two scams above, but with a more intimate angle! You might receive an email from a lonely-heart operating on her own behalf, or an offer from a dating agency or marriage bureau. The photos you are sent are stunning, they should be, they are of a model and used without her knowledge or consent. Once you have been duped into striking up a relationship via email, you find that "she" then runs into a variety of complications, such as needing medical treatment for which you are implored to send money.


You will doubtless receive emails from a variety of banks and financial institutions, including PayPal, informing you of a problem with your account and requiring that you go to their web site and validate or confirm or reset the account or do something or other. Whatever it is, it requires you to enter your personal information including your 3-digit security code on the back of your credit card or your password for an on-line bank account. You ought to have noted that the URL of the website you end up at is not that of the institution the email claims to be from, but many do not bother to check. In any case, no banks ever send such an email.

The Spanish Prisoner

So called because it dates back as far as 1588 in its original form, that of a rich nobleman held prisoner by Philip II of Spain and whose release must be secured before the King realises who he is. Your job is to handle the ransom money. The modern version concerns legitimate goods held by corrupt customs officials (who know how valuable they are), or illegal goods held by honest customs officials (who do not know how valuable they are) or ordinary thieves just wanting an honest ransom. Your job is to pay the bribe or customs duty or ransom to secure their release upon which you will be handsomely rewarded.

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