Chopped Dollars And Screwed Emails: Songs Of The 419 Scams

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If you have an email address, you've probably received at least one poorly written message that promises you a cut of some large sum of money if you'll just be so kind as to help out with a quick loan that will pay some of that windfall's processing fees. These attempts at fraud—known as "419 Scams"—have been in existence for centuries; the modern version arose in Nigeria in the 1980s, and was given new life when bulk emailing made it easy to send millions of solicitations to suckers worldwide.

419 scams' financial success in Nigeria is perhaps impossible to estimate. A 2006 report estimated that up to £150 million a year was stolen from UK residents via this sort of robbery, though the report did not specifically break down how much money went to Nigeria. A 2000 U.S. court case found evidence that at least several government officials were involved in a scam that defrauded one U.S. national of $5.2 million, though the same case found that the U.S. national was unable to sue the Nigerian government since he knowingly entered into a criminal enterprise. But they have come to loom large over Nigeria's pop culture. The resulting films and songs let outsiders know that what might seem like a joke to Westerners (like those people who correspond with 419 scammers as a way of whiling away an afternoon) can fuel revenge fantasies, enable lifestyles, or serve as a source of national embarrassment elsewhere. Three tracks are below.


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