Internet scam artists will stoop to just about anything to get people to take them up on their outrageous offers – but the latest "419" letter takes the cake.
Purporting – in the scammers' trademark poor English – to come from Microsoft and AOL, this one descends one step further and is signed by "Rev Vendish Anderson".
As if playing on the recipients' greed at the prospect of having "won" one-million pounds isn't enough, the letter attempts to allay suspicion by invoking a "trusted" figure (a minister of God) as the author.
So, if the reader can stretch his credulity to believe that Microsoft and AOL get together every year to hand out 100-million pounds to a select group of Web hosts, they would feel confident in calling "the Rev" to collect their money.
Why a committed man of God would be working as the Head of the Winning Claims Department in Microsoft's Promotion Award Team is best left to the imagination.
An interesting element of the so-called "draw" is that fact that two numbers appear to have been drawn twice, with the "winning" sequence being 14-21-25-40-40-47 (21).
The so-called 419 scams almost always rely on people's greed and willingness to believe that they are somehow entitled to unbelievably vast sums of money. Most of them require the "mark" to co-operate in a less-than-legal scheme to launder misplaced or overlooked funds on behalf of a government or bank official – or the children of deposed tyrants.
Once someone responds to one of these scams, they are easily convinced to part with personal information such as banking details, ID numbers and others – some are even asked to deposit money as a show of good faith.