They are called Nigerian scams, it is said after the con games that originated in Nigeria when the bottom fell out of the oil market in the 1980s. These pleas for help — and ultimately money — have proliferated beyond Nigeria to other parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia and have multiplied further with the Internet. People still fall for them. If you’ve seen enough of this spam, the stilted language and predictable formula can provide a few minutes of cyber entertainment. The FBI has posted warnings about this tactic. 

A reader forwarded a new military twist on the scam he recently received in which the “perps” (We were big “NYPD Blue” fans.) are pfishing for unsuspecting do-gooders, who would not mind turning an easy profit at the same time. This example with its unintentionally joint flavor, asks the recipient for nothing more than a response, so it seemed either this was a scam of a scam or the perps would make their move after gaining some trust with the targeted patsy. The latter was true, and we patsies did some pfishing of our own and got what we were looking for — and more .

This supposed plea from Iraq has been made under the name of Lt. Col. William Russell. The above photos came in the second e-mail. Recognize the man in the picture? Well, we didn’t, but Google worked its magic. He is, in fact, Lt. Col William Russell of the U.S. Army — not the U.S. Marine Corps, as the letter and bizarre rendering of an “ID” say. Russell left active service to take on Pennsylvania Bad Boy and retired Marine Rep. John Blurtha, in the upcoming election. (Is nothing sacred?)

Here is an excerpt from the initial e-mail:

Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 12:16 PM


I hope this e-mail message meets you well? I am in need of your assistance. My
name is Lt. Col. William Russell of the Engineering Unit of US Military (MARINE)
here in Ba’qubah in Iraq, and a citizen of the United States of America.

We have about $20 Million US dollars that we want to move out of this country
(Iraq). My partners and I need a good partner out there, someone we can trust to
receive the funds on our behalf. It is an oil money and legal,there is no room
for fear here. …

Below is an excerpt from the very lengthy response we received back. (We were flattered he was happy to hear from us.)

Thanks so much for your respond. Please note that these transaction is a deal and must be kept strickly [sic] confidential for us to succeed.

Further enquiries I made as regards to these deal shows that we have got two options to pull the funds out. …

Then BAM: 

“Let me know your desired choice to receive the funds and also send to me the underlisted details;
1. Your direct contact details (mobile phone and fax, residential/official addresses) 
2. The details of the nearest airport to your destination 
3. A scanned copy of your International Passport/ driver’s licence [sic] for trust. 
Soon I receive all needed, I shall commence with full TRUST.  
You can reach me vie my satalite [sic] phone only permitted for use; +88 216 4444 7729 

Lt.Col. William Russell

Who can resist a closing of “Waiting” and Russell’s come-hither look? Scams and the people who fall for them will continue. The creative, albeit absurd, addition of a military theme might catch even more pfish in this potentially devastating net. 


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