This book is about liars telling lies with compound interest to other liars. A -struggle is being waged on the Internet between criminals and comedians. On one side are fraudsters who con their victims out of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The basic tool of the trade is e-mail, and the crime is the infamous “419” scam—a form of fraud whose current masters hail from Nigeria and which gets its name from section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code. It begins with an e-mail from a stranger:
I am soliciting your assistance as to enable my family round up the remains of our life. Following the death of my husband Sani Abacha, former head of state of Nigeria, the new president has turned the country against us . . . I will be grateful if you could receive my last $50 million for safe keeping. I will give you 10% as a commission and to cover any expenses . . .
On the other side of the struggle, pranksters from around the world are writing back to scammers strictly to waste their time. The resulting literary genre is -scambaiting—psychological warfare for clowns. Some anti-scammers go further, breaking into scammers’ e-mail accounts to warn off their victims, and helping law enforcement.
This book documents a weird form of cultural exchange made possible by the Internet. It is a hilarious introduction to the “419” scam, with correspondences between scammers and people who love to yank their chains.