You’ve probably gotten one of the infamous “Nigerian e-mail” messages. A member of the Nigerian government, or a son of a Zimbabwean diplomat, or a widow of an African dictator, needs your help to get millions of dollars out of the country. Your reward will be twenty or thirty or forty percent of the money. You delete them, right?

Not everybody does. Here’s a fascinating article about the messages – which really come from Nigeria, it turns out. About one percent of the recipients respond to the messages – and enough money is put up to make the Nigerian e-mail scam one of Nigeria’s top five industries, right up there with palm oil and tin. The scam dates back to the 1920s, evolved through direct mail and fax solicitations, and is now the driving force behind the wiring of Nigeria with Internet cafes. People that get involved can wind up being held for ransom or murdered.

It’s worth a reminder: if you’re curious about an e-mail message, you can frequently get the real story at this Urban Legends site. Always check before you respond or forward a message that might be a hoax!

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