BAGHDAD — The latest twist in a long-running series of e-mail scams now comes to you courtesy of someone claiming to be a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
In the most recent iteration of what’s known as the “Nigerian scam,” someone purporting to be a “Sgt. 1st Class Frank V. Edwards” of the 3rd Infantry Division says he wants someone to help him get $10 million out of Iraq. The letter then goes to say that the money was found during a raid in Tikrit.
“Some money in various currencies was discovered in barrels at a farm house near one of Saddam’s old palaces in Tikrit-Iraq during a rescue operation, and it was agreed by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Buff and I that some part of this money be shared among both of us,” the e-mail reads in sometimes broken English.
“This was quite an illegal thing to do, but I tell you what? No compensation can make up for the risk we have taken with our lives in this hell hole. Of which my brother-in-law was killed by a roadside bomb last week.”
The e-mail includes a link to an old Washington Post article from 2003 about soldiers keeping money found on raids in Iraq.
The e-mail scam has a long history. The scam began in Nigeria and worked its way into Iraq with several twists that have been surprisingly successful.
“The letter, while appearing transparent and even ridiculous to most, unfortunately is growing in its effectiveness,” reads a primer on the scams posted by the U.S. Secret Service. “It sets the stage and is the opening round of a two-layered scheme or scheme within a scheme. The fraudster will eventually reach someone who, while skeptical, desperately wants the deal to be genuine.”
Unlikely as it sounds, the Secret Service says similar “4-1-9” scams gross “hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate. In all likelihood, there are victims who do not report their losses to authorities due to either fear or embarrassment.”
The 4-1-9 scam, also known as Advance Fee Fraud, is named after the section of the Nigerian penal code covering fraud; the Secret Service notes the scams are “often very creative and innovative.”
But it’s hard to believe that someone would fall for something like the following plea, taken from the latest e-mail:
“I do not know how long we will remain here, and I have been shot, wounded and survived two suicide bomb attacks by the special grad (sic) of God. This and other reasons I will mention later has prompted me to reach out for help. I honestly want this matter to be resolved immediately, please contact me as soon as possible.”