Email scams, also known as 419 scams, are Nigeria’s second biggest industry, just behind oil. These scams bring in billions of dollars to Nigeria every year. I don’t know why so many people still fall for them. Nigerian scam emails almost always contain obvious signs they are frauds. They are usually poorly written with lots of grammatical and spelling mistakes, and the stories they tell don’t make sense. They come from people who you have never heard of before, and who for some improbable reason want to give you a lot of money. Below is a Nigerian email scam letter that I received recently. It has all of the telltale signs of a 419 scam. The thing about this letter that I found interesting and unusual is that it was written by a dead man. Notice that the author of this letter repeatedly refers to his wife as ‘my widow’. If the author’s wife is his widow, then the man must have already been dead when he wrote the letter.


Dear Sir,

Good day and compliments. This letter will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but I implore you to take the time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will go off a long way to determine the future and continued existence of the entire members of my family.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is General Agoda Abacha, the late head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria.

My widow’s ordeal started immediately on the morning of 8th June 1998, and the subsequent take over of government by the current administration. The present democratic government is determined to portray all of my good work in a bad light and have gone as far as confiscating all my assets and properties, freezing my accounts both within and outside Nigeria. As I am writing this letter to you, my son Mohammed Abacha is undergoing questioning with the government. All these measures taken by present government is just to gain international recognition.

The entire members of my family have been held incommunicado, hence I seek your indulgence to assist us in securing these funds. We are not allowed to see or discuss with anybody. Few occasions I have tired traveling abroad through alternative means all failed.

It is in view of this I have mandated DR GALADIMA HASSAN, who has been assisting the family to run around on so many issues to act on behalf of the family concerning the substance of this letter. He has the full power of attorney to execute this transaction with you.

I had Eighty Million USD ($80,000,000.00) specially preserved and well packed in trunk boxes of which only I and my widow knew about. It is packed in such a way to forestall just anybody having access to it. It is this sum that I seek your assistance to get out of Nigeria as soon as possible before the present civilian government finds out about it and confiscate it just like they have done to all our assets.

I implore you to please give consideration to the predicament of my widow who is in need.

May Allah show you mercy as you do so?

Your faithfully,

General Agoda Abacha

Craigslist Rental Scams. The Needless Credit Report

Craigslist Fraud. A new study from New York University found that 1.5% of all Craigslist rentals ads in the United States are scams and that more than 50% of these fraudulent ads go undetected by Craigslist. I’m pretty sure that a lot more than 1.5% of Craigslist rental ads in the San Francisco bay area are scams. That is because there is a serious shortage of rental housing in this area, and prospective tenants sometimes get desperate.

The Needless Credit Report.  The most common rental scam is the needless credit report. It works this way. A crook creates a Craigslist rental ad for an actual property, but not a property that he owns or manages. To attract victims, the crook makes the rental look like a huge bargain. The ad says that in order to rent the apartment, you have to fill out an online application form and submit a credit report. The ad directs prospective tenants to a shady credit agency – a credit agency that is cahoots with the scammer. (You can tell I am old because I still use words like ‘cahoots.’) This agency sells you an overpriced credit report and then splits the money with the scammer, leaving you with a useless credit report. (I am writing this article because a number of my tenants are graduating soon and will be moving out.) How can you avoid this scam? It is very simple. Get a free credit report and make copies of it before you go looking for a place to rent. Giving a prospective landlord a copy of your credit report along with your application gives you an edge over other applicants. It makes you look better prepared and more businesslike.

Free Credit Reports. By Federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once every year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These 3 companies jointly operate a web site: where you can get free credit reports from each of these companies at no cost to you and with no strings attached. Unfortunately, spam e-mails and TV advertising direct consumers to look-alike web sites. These look-alike sites appear to offer free credit reports, but they are usually expensive credit monitoring services instead. In order to get a so-called ‘free credit report’ from these companies, you usually have to give them your credit card number first, after which, they charge your credit card every month for credit monitoring, whether you want this service or not. Stopping the automatic monthly billing to your credit card with some of these companies can be difficult. Here are some tips for getting really free credit reports.

  1. Only go to: Watch your spelling carefully when you go to this site. There are a lot of phony ‘free credit report’ web sites and many of them have names that are just one letter away from the real thing. Never respond to e-mails or TV ads for free credit reports.
  2. Space out your three free credit reports over a year. This will allow you see changes that occur over time.
  3. Print out your credit report as soon as you see it on your monitor. You may not be able to gain free access to it later. Its good to have a printed copy of your credit report on hand anyway, even if you are not looking for a rental. You may find it useful when applying for a job or loan.
  4. After you have your credit report, quit your browser if you are at a computer that is shared or accessible by other people.
My Policy. Yes, I do run credit reports on prospective tenants, but I never charge applicants for it. Charging prospective tenants for credit reports creates ill-will. People don’t normally have to spend money to apply for things, like jobs or credit cards, and people are understandably angry when they have to spend money to apply for an apartment – and then don’t get the place. Besides, how much landlords can charge prospective tenants for credit reports is now regulated by California state law. Because I don’t charge applicants for running credit reports, I don’t have to comply with those regulations.

Credit Repair Companies. A shameful scam.

If I ran the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), there are a number of businesses that I would shut down immediately on the grounds that they are in business simply to defraud people. Near the top of my list would be credit repair companies. These companies claim that they can get negative information out of your credit report, regardless of how it got there. They companies advertise on TV all the time, claiming that they can ‘clean up’ your credit report and raise your credit score.

The truth is this. If there is negative information in your credit report and that information is accurate, there is nothing that you or anyone else can do to get that information out of your credit report. It really is just that simple. If you didn’t repay your student loan, make payments on your credit cards, or if you got evicted from your apartment for nonpayment of rent; and that information is in your credit report, then you are just going to have to live with that. Giving money to a credit repair company to get accurate information out of your credit report is a complete waste of money. You would do just as well spending your money on Alien Abduction Insurance.

UFO Abduction Insurance. There actually are a number of companies, mostly in England, that sell UFO Abduction Insurance. There is also a company in Florida that sells UFO Abduction Insurance, but in order to collect on their policy, you have to have the space creature that kidnapped you sign a notarized statement acknowledging the abduction. I think that could be hard to get. If you become pregnant as a result of your alien abduction, the insurance policy pays double. However – I digress.

If there is negative information in your credit report, and that information is incorrect, then that is a different kettle of fish. You can get that information out of your credit report, and you can do it yourself. It isn’t hard. Many years ago, my credit report showed that I owed a bank $200,000 on a mortgage on a house in Oakland and that I had not been making payments on the mortgage for over a year. The truth was that I had sold the property, and the bank failed to inform the credit bureau that the loan had been paid off. That happens all the time. Lenders frequently forget to tell credit bureaus when loans are paid off. I sent a letter to the credit bureau explaining what happened along with a xerox copy of my payoff letter from the bank. The credit bureau quickly took the erroneous information out of my credit report.

To get erroneous information out of your credit report, go to and print out your credit report. This service is free. Be careful typing in the name of this web site. Other companies have similar names but charge for credit reports. Highlight any information that is wrong and e-mail or write to the credit bureau with your side of the story. Include copies of documents that back up your case. Credit bureaus will respond to letters like this and make corrections. They don’t want to get sued for giving out erroneous information, and credit bureaus have to compete with each other. If a credit bureau develops a reputation for having a lot of inaccurate information in their reports, they will lose business, so they do have an incentive to make sure that their reports are accurate.

Credit repair companies often claim to have special relationships with credit bureaus, but that isn’t true. They also claim to have secret methods for getting negative information out of credit reports, but that isn’t true either. None of the 3 major credit bureaus have any relationship with any credit repair company. As I said earlier, if there is negative information in your credit report, and it is accurate, then you are stuck. There is nothing that you or a credit repair company can do about it.