|Spam, spam, spam
11 Jun 2004
Where would you find the largest collection of widows with hundreds of millions of pounds in the bank? This may be a question which bachelors in North West Hampshire ask themselves. Florida? Monte Carlo? Saudi Arabia?
Having analysed my emails, I can give the answer; Lagos. Readers may have heard from these ladies, who have so much in common – and so much that is tragic. For they were all apparently married to the country’s Minister for Oil; this public-spirited individual found his career sadly and prematurely terminated when he was executed by the country’s unscrupulous military dictator. But before his demise, he had taken it upon himself to place a large amount of the revenues for which he was responsible beyond the reach of his persecutor. A precaution for which the nation would doubtless be grateful.
These funds lie safely but dormant in a bank, access to which can only be secured through the good offices of the grieving widow.
Unfortunately – perhaps because he was busy marrying so many ladies or because of the imminence of the threat to his life - the extraction of the money from this account, so it might be restored to the Nigerian taxpayer, is less than straightforward.
And this is where I - or to be more accurate, firstname.lastname@example.org - come in, along with several hundred other readers of this column. We have been fortunate enough to have been selected by the grieving widow to assist in this patriotic task. News of our shining integrity had reached her ears and, with apologies for approaching us without a formal introduction, she now throws herself at our feet. The funds in question need to be legitimised through our bank account; and, for a commission running into millions of dollars, we are asked to assist by informing her of its details.
Readers are advised to leave the good lady to mourn in peace. But there is a more worrying scam to which people are falling prey. Too many of my constituents have found themselves confronted with a large telephone bill because, unbeknownst to them, their computer has been infected with a rogue dialler, that has been busy dialling premium rate numbers. Others have had a text message, inviting them to dial a premium rate number with a long pre-recorded message, to claim a non-existent cash prize.
I am on the case; I have had meetings with ICSTIS – the custodian of premium rate numbers – and with BT, the organisation through which the rip-off merchants are paid. The position is complex but essentially unsatisfactory. Although it is clear within a few days that a fraud is under way, it is often months before anything happens. And then a fine is levied on the offending organisation which because surprise surprise it is based outside the UK, is never paid. Indeed, our grieving widow may be consoling herself by diversifying into this related racket.