Scamalot

Summary:I've been glancing through Michael Peel's Chatham House report Nigeria-Related Financial Crime And Its Links With Britain, off the back of how it was reported in the papers (such as the Metro's "'Nigeria e-mails' cost £150m a year" headline).

I've been glancing through Michael Peel's Chatham House report Nigeria-Related Financial Crime And Its Links With Britain, off the back of how it was reported in the papers (such as the Metro's "'Nigeria e-mails' cost £150m a year" headline).

Now, we all know the "419 scam" scenario - email rocks up in your mailbox asking you to fund the release of some stash of ill-gotten cash, of which you'll supposedly get a cut - but a couple of things stopped me from writing this up as a fully-fledged story. Firstly, it's based on old data from CIFAS (the anti-fraud body, or one of them at least). Secondly, CIFAS never said these figures were all down to email-based fraud. Thirdly, they never said they were all down to Nigerians either, which makes those headlines this morning rather confused and more than a bit unfair.

One interesting historical fact did emerge from the Peel report, however:

"Advance fee frauds have been around for centuries, most famously in the form of the 'Spanish prisoner' scam. In this, a wealthy merchant would be contacted by a stranger who was seeking help in smuggling a fictitious family member out of a Spanish jail. In exchange for funding the 'rescue', the merchant was promised a reward, which of course never materialized. In the early twentieth century, the Nigerian Customs and Trade even printed a letter from Britain’s ambassador in Spain warning the public in Nigeria to be 'upon their guard' against the scam."

That's irony for you, folks.

Topics: Telcos

About

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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