The Nigerian 419 Scam
Hiding in Plain Sight
It is generally agreed that Nigerian 419 scams are so obviously fake that it would take a particularly gullible, ignorant person to go for them. The current wisdom is that they are obvious on purpose, to weed out the smart recipients and target only the dummies. That the scam works sometimes may be a welcome byproduct, but I submit that the scams are in fact the 21st century version of a numbers station, broadcasting a plain-text message that can only be understood by someone with the correct key. The scam is the lock, and only one recipient out of tens of millions has the key that fits.
What is the very best coded message? One that nobody expects to be a coded message. Everybody has spam filters, including the National Security Agency (NSA), which neatly and tidily tosses out the very messages they hope to intercept.
Let's say that you are interested in communicating via email with your terrorist associates, but know that the NSA monitors every email and telephone call, looking for suspicious chatter. You'd therefore send, from a Nigerian internet cafe, a message like this one:
Attention: The President/CEO
Confidential Business Proposal
Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your accounts. The above sum resulted from an over-invoiced contract, executed, commissioned and paid for about five years (5) ago by a foreign contractor. This action was however intentional and since then the fund has been in a suspense account at The Central Bank Of Nigeria Apex Bank.
We are now ready to transfer the fund overseas and that is where you come in. It is important to inform you that as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account; that is why we require your assistance. The total sum will be shared as follows: 70% for us, 25% for you and 5% for local and international expenses incidental to the transfer.
The transfer is risk free on both sides. I am an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). If you find this proposal acceptable, we shall require the following documents:
(a) your banker's name, telephone, account and fax numbers.
(b) your private telephone and fax numbers - for confidentiality and easy communication.
(c) your letter-headed paper stamped and signed.
Alternatively we will furnish you with the text of what to type into your letter-headed paper, along with a breakdown explaining, comprehensively what we require of you. The business will take us thirty (30) working days to accomplish.
Please reply urgently.
Howgul Abul Arhu
The one-in-ten-millionth recipient who actually knows that this is a coded communication, like the Verlaine D-Day "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne blessent mon coeur D'une langueur Monotone," which meant nothing unless the recipient, in this case the French Resistance, knew that it meant, "pull out all the stops, the invasion is imminent." Thousands of similar messages were sent, most of which were just chaff meant to confuse German intelligence. This could also be a one-time pad message, intelligible to someone with the correct key. It could be a million things, or nothing.
Take a look in your junk mail folder, NSA and weep. The Nigerian scam is scamming you. The enemy is hiding in plain sight, thumbing his nose at your bumbling, unpopular surveillance and laughing in his sleeve.
(August 24, 2013)
Article IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
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