Only a few of these letters are duplicates, although some have minor variations. The most common variation is the one where the writer is the son of the most popular black farmer in Zimbabwe, who was killed in a land dispute as a result of President Robert Mugabe's introduction of new Land Act Reform wholly affecting the rich white farmers and the few rich black farmers. Each time, this "most popular black farmer in Zimbabwe" has a different name.
The Nigerian Scam letters generally fall into one of four categories:
1. I am a government minister in Nigeria. I have been accumulating funds in a secret bank account by over-invoicing contracts awarded by the Government of Nigeria. I now have $18.5 million in the account. I will send the money to you and, for performing this service, I will give you part of the money when I get out of Nigeria.
2. I am the son of the President or Chief or Leader of an African Country. My father was killed in a war or uprising. The new government of my country is trying to get the money my father left for his family. We have only $18.5 million left. I want to send you this money to hold for me and my family.
3. My father was a rich diamond merchant or gold miner or farmer. He was killed in a land dispute. We have only $18.5 million left. I want to send you the money to hold until we get out.
4. I am a branch bank manager of a bank in Nigeria. One of the depositors in my bank was killed along with his entire family in a car accident on Zimbabwe Road. I have discovered that my client had $18.5 million on deposit with the bank. I want you to impersonate my client and claim that you are him and then I will give you the money.
In each case, the recipient is asked to engage in an obviously illegal transaction. This is an important point, because when the person goes along with this plan and later realizes that he has been swindled, he will be afraid to go to the law enforcement authorities because to do so will admit that he has been a willing participant in a crime.
In many cases, the letter writer claims to be the wife or child of a famous person. For example, many letters have been coming from a person claiming to be the wife of the former President of the Philippines. What I have expected to receive but have not received are letters claiming to be from the wives or children of Osama bin Laden (there are such people, last known to be under detention in Pakistan) or from one of the sons of Saddam Hussein.
I have often thought of writing such a letter for the fun of it and sending it out to two million people. However, I fear that I might get into trouble for this.
Here is the kind of letter I have thought of writing:
"I am the good daughter of President George W. Bush. My grandfather made a deal with a business partner in Iran to sell him arms to fight the war against Iraq. He also made a deal with a business partner in Iraq to sell him arms to help him fight the war against Iran."
"Unfortunately, my grandfather is old now and he cannot remember anything about these transactions. My father says that he does not know anything about this, either. However, I found a bank statement in a desk drawer in our white house showing that we have $18.5 million in the account. I want to send you this $18.5 million. Do not worry. My father will not remember anything about this and my sister will only know about it through telepathy."