Gee, Dr. Obija — are you a Nigerian con man? 

Bad Connection

I receive a mysterious fax in my mailbox. Yes, I decide, I would love to receive a 35 percent commission on $28.5 million. All I need to do is help a Nigerian government official, a "Dr. Joseph Obija," transfer money into my bank account.

I assume that this certainly could not be the notorious Nigerian Scam, which has been circulating through unsolicited e-mail and other correspondence, in which Americans are solicited for help in obtaining access to offshore bank accounts and then duped out of money. I am not one to think the worst of people.

So I call Dr. Obija in Nigeria to find out more. He sends me a follow-up fax, addressed to "Jason Loop," and then calls me. We have the following phone conversation, transcribed as accurately as humanly possible:



Dr. Obija: Yesterday I called your line but your line was in an answering machine.

Style: I got a message but I didn't get a chance to call you back because I've been on deadline. I'm a reporter for Style Weekly magazine in Richmond, Virginia.

Dr. Obija: OK.

Style: And I got your fax.

Dr. Obija: OK, you got my fax?

Style: Your fax about the opportunity.

Dr. Obija: OK. The fax I sent to you I sent a big and second page, A and B, form application from X and also banking information.

Style: That's what I got.

Dr. Obija: Yes. You transcribe the bank into another guga-pah. This time a free. Or if you don't feel your company does in time, we need a two tee yes time claim.

Style: I'm sorry. Can you speak a little bit slower? It's hard to understand.

Dr. Obija: OK. What I'm telling you now is that both A and B, which I sent to you, you are to transcribe the test A and B into your compliment I and a goodbye. Our force and talk to me. The test B, the form B. You are going to see a bank and practical yeah. You are the 28.5 million the wired into.

Style: But this is your business?

Dr. Obija: Yes. You know, this transcript of 5 million, based on what I found the contract due, due to her. Is a commission. Is a commission on the contract. We are now looking for a reliable assistance. We can do find the sweet dude we are can't. We are just distributing the million copy to wire into.

Style: And how much could I make?

Dr. Obija: The is transcript of 5 million. Million dollar.

Style: And what would I actually have to do? Send you a letterhead?

Dr. Obija: I'm looking, I'm looking, right.

Style: So you need an empty letterhead from my company?

Dr. Obija: Yes, yes. You may find the forms that I sent to you. I told you we are looking for an offshore account from a reliable source. A trustworthy one. We can provide all this banking account we are looking for this transfer of 5 million into.

Style: OK. So, um, you would transfer the money into my account?

Dr. Obija: Yes, yes. Into your bank account. You did go through my forms I sent to you?

Style: Yes, it's right here in my hands.

Dr. Obija: And the last one, the one I sent to you as of yesterday, when everything is well, going [unintelligible].

Style: And why did you send it to me?

Dr. Obija: Now.

Style: Right.

Dr. Obija: Hello?

Style: Yes. Why did you send it here?

Dr. Obija: OK. I'll just send it right now.

Style: No. I have it. I'm asking, how did it end up at this company?

Dr. Obija: Yes. Your company was introduced to me from a reliable source.

Style: Who?

Dr. Obija: An American embassy here in Nigeria.

Style: Who is the source?

Dr. Obija: Hello?

Style: Yes. Who is the reliable source?

Dr. Obija: Yes. A reliable source from Nigeria, from an American embassy.

Style: From the bank?

Dr. Obija: No. From the embassy. Em-bass-y.

Style: Right. And how do they know Style Weekly?

Dr. Obija: I don't understand you. What I'm saying is that your company was [unintelligible] to us through a reliable source. A reliable source in front of my wish working at American embassy in Nigeria. Is wander into this [unintelligible]. You can probably convey that to your company. Is very reliable. And you are a kind of person we can work with. Because we are looking for someone that is reliable. Not someone that wants [intelligible] mayonnaise to his bank account can appear. And in the middle of this money wired into a bank account you are to send me a note of petition for me to come back to the United States for the final dispersement. And in the form I sent to you that [unintelligible] are going to provide your company will be given 35 percent of this 28.5 million. Why 50 percent? You'd be Allah. I'd also 35 percent you'd be [unintelligible] of this transaction.

Style: And what guarantee do we have that we would get this money?

Dr. Obija: Yes. We are going to get this money. This money is a contract fee. It is a commission. It is a commission due to [unintelligible] 35 percent.

Style: Don't you think that seems too easy?

Dr. Obija: I've had this money is going to, is a contract signed. We are, we are. Hello?

Style: Yes?

Dr. Obija: Yes. We are, you know, we are work, as in a [unintelligible] for over a contract commit to you. We are [unintelligible]. And we told him to exchange the money as bit as 10 percent. And then the contract has been paid. Why the 10 percent? It is not for us. We are trying to wire this money into a foreign account. As the government workers say, in Nigeria, we are not allowed to open an offshore account. That is why we are looking for a reliable source which we transfer this money into his bank account.

Style: Well, let me think about it.

Dr. Obija: Hello?

Style: Yes. Let me think about it. OK?

Dr. Obija: Yeah.

Style: Thank you.

Dr. Obija: Hello? Once you go through my fax, I want you to view the A and B. [Unintelligible.]

Style: OK. Goodbye.

Dr. Obija:

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