We've all heard about "Nigerian Prince" or 419 scams. On the surface it sounds laughable - a Nigerian prince, or someone similar, is trying to move billions of dollars out of his country and offering you a substantial cut to help - but more than 100,000 people fall for it every year in the U.S. alone.
Now, stop me if you've heard the one about the Nigerian astronaut that's been stuck in space for the last 14 years?
Much like the plot out of "The Martian" starring Matt Damon, the latest and perhaps most creative scam claims that Major Abacha Tunde, the first African in space, has been stuck on the Soviet Salyut 6 space station since 1989.
Never heard of him or the mission? That's because it was top secret mission that went totally wrong. Duh. Tunde's "cousin," Dr. Bakare Tunde, who is the one penning the letter, claims Tunde was left behind by Soviet crew members with his place being taken by cargo.
In the time since he's been lost in space, he's been kept afloat by occasional supply flights. He's also received pay for his time - $15 million to be exact. You can guess what comes next.
Tunde's cousin needs you to help access his funds. If Tunde can get a mere $3 million, he can put a down payment on a rescue effort led by Russian space authorities. So, he'll need access to your accounts to transfer money and in return, he's promising 20% of the transferred amount.
I shouldn't have to say it, but like I said before, 100,000 people fall for the Nigerian Prince scam every year, in the U.S. alone. Don't do anything with this email. Don't click any links, don't send any money, don't call the telephone number. Instead, Be Like Bill. Delete the email and have a good laugh.
Here's the full letter, as posted on Anorak:
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.
In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.
Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.
Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.
Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.
Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager