Meet the Nigerian E-Mail Grifters

Thursday, 18 July 2002, 1:48 AM EST

She's a widow, he's a high-ranking government official. They have fallen on hard times and urgently request your assistance to get a large sum of money out of Nigeria. They will reward you handsomely for your help.

Chances are you've seen something like that in your e-mail box. Perhaps in a bored moment you've wondered who sends them and why they bother; after all, no one could be gullible enough to buy into such an obvious con game.

But sources close to some of the so-called Nigerian e-mail scam's perpetrators insist that those overwrought messages fuel a thriving industry, employing thousands of people around the world who successfully manage to extract money from a multitude of Internet pen pals.

A Nigerian student who asked to be identified only as "Taiwo" (the twin), detailed the workings of the business, which he said his family has been involved in for over 15 years. Taiwo is a very large man, with a voice and mannerisms to match. He claims that his recent interest in the traditional religion of the Yoruba people has led him to publicly speak out about his past.

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