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The Column

You Deserve It
5/25/03

I hope you receive this column in good faith. My name is Steve Hofstetter, son of the late Umbequeye Hofstetter, crown prince of the Nigerian Oil and Excess Money Council, and I need your help stealing some stuff.

If you've ever gotten an email like that, hopefully you deleted it without bothering to read the second paragraph. Nothing sounds more believable than a stranger e-mailing you about helping him funnel money out of the account of a deceased millionaire.

The basic scam is thus - they convince you to give up your bank account info so they can funnel money in it. Instead, they funnel money out of it. It's a high tech version of someone asking you to open your wallet and turn your back so that they can put a few bucks in there.

If you've ever fallen for this scam, put down this column and get immediate government assistance. Not to recover your money, but to protect yourself from your own lack of common sense. March straight to your local Stupidity Bureau and register your name immediately. If you are even smart enough to spell it.

The funniest part about someone falling for this scam is how excited they probably were when they first got the email. "This must be my lucky day! True, I've never heard of this guy. And if I type his name into a search engine, several hundred hoax websites come up. And yes, I'm female and he called me sir. But I really want to trust this man. And who among us hasn't wanted to screw the Nigerian government?"

My first clue that this was a scam was that I am a stand-up comedian, and there's no way any financial director is going to trust me with anything more than subway fare. My second clue was that I get 12 of these messages a day, making it very difficult to believe the authenticity of any one in particular. The likelihood that I can help with one Nigerian Petroleum company is slim. But 12? Now you're just talking crazy.

The third and perhaps most poignant sign that this was a fraud was its arrival via email. If you ever get a coupon, sweepstakes, bill, love letter, message from your mother, or anything else, if it came over email it's probably phony. If this guy is sitting on twenty-five million dollars, he can afford a 37-cent stamp to send an actual letter. Or even an 80-cent stamp if the guy actually does live in Nigeria.

I decided to write back to the latest guy, Christopher Adeniyi, to see what would happen. Okay, so I really did it because I needed a few more paragraphs on this column.

"Dear Mr. Adeniyi - I thank you to have written me. By coincidence, I am also operating an account for a deceased millionaire involved in the petroleum industry. Perhaps we can trade accounts? Sincerely, Dr. Hercules Rockefeller"

I never heard back from him. Perhaps he thought that my letter was a scam. I sent him another one just in case.

"Chris - Hey, I don't know if you got my last message, but this money is really burning a hole in my pocket. Hit me back with your bank account and stuff and I'll give you some. Peace, Steveo."

And since he STILL didn't respond, I tried one more time.

"My Dearest Christopher. It has been a fortnight since I have heard the sweet song of my email dinging to tell me I've received your letter. I yearn to read the grade-school grammar of your half-caps lock correspondence. Please respond soon, as I am tired of carrying around all of this money. Sincerely, your sweetness."

After still receiving nothing in return, I sent him 34 more letters later that day. I'm beginning to think this guy isn't the Financial Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at all!

I do not feel sorry for anyone who has fallen for this type of scam. Just like I don't feel sorry for people who spill hot coffee on their laps, eat too much fatty food, or die bungee jumping. It is your fault. Take responsibility for your own stupidity. Use this incident to learn a little something about life. And send me your bank account info. Because I know this guy in Nigeria...

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