32 Flavors of Nigerian Scams
This Wired News Article talks about one of several scams circulating via e-mail. Unfortunately, Nigeria, which has given us many of the world's greatest writers, is also the source of one of the most egregious Internet scams, resulting in billions of lost money world wide.
The scam goes by a couple of names, the "Advanced Fee Fraud" for the nature of the scam and the "419 Scam" for the part of the Nigerian penal code which addresses the crime. Regardless of its name, the scam always takes the same form, offering willing participants money from the coffers of corrupt politicians from some recently overthrown third world country (usually Nigeria). Oh, but wait, there's a few bank officials to bribe and some transfer fees to take care of. Couldn't you help us out with a few thousand dollars? We'll make it back to you 100 fold.
The unfortunate participant, having parted with as much cash as they can, never receives the money at the end. Though this type of scam is as old as money itself and this particular scam has circulated for years even in pre-email incarnations, an estimated 1% of the people who receive such offers still take the bait.
For our part, we attempt to block such messages using our spam filtering software at the server level. Those customers who have elected to have spam filtering enabled at the server level will receive less of these messages than those who haven't. However, as this Snopes article notes, there are literally hundreds -- if not thousands -- of versions of the same scam. This means that you still may receive some flavors of this message.
So, it would seem that despite all of our technical prowess that we still have yet to invent the tool which protects us from our own gullibility and greed.