Not five minutes ago I received my first 419 scam in a language other than English.
What’s strange is that even though it uses normal case and I can’t read more than a few words of French, it’s still obvious what it is. It has the same general structure with the opening, the “Excuse me for contacting you even though you don’t know me” line (I think), talks about a sub-Saharan African nation (Côte d’Ivoire), and of course, “($8,500,000) Huit Millions Cinq Cent Mille Dollars Américains.”
Does anyone actually fall for these?
You’d be surprised. According to FraudWatch International, “the Financial Crimes Division of the U.S. Secret Service receives approximately 100 telephone calls from victims and potential victims and 300-500 pieces of related correspondence per day!” And that’s just U.S. victims! (The Secret Service is mainly known for providing the President’s bodyguards, but they also investigate counterfeiting, fraud, identity theft, etc.)
Here’s the Secret Service’s advisory, and here’s Snopes.com’s page on the scam’s history. This type of con goes back to the 1920s, and the Nigerian variant has been around since the early 1980s. I read an article once that claimed the scam’s popularity actually drove the market for expanding the Internet through Nigeria.