Saturday, October 25, 2003

The “Nigerian Scam”

These days I find myself, and I suspect that I am not alone, on the receiving end of a deluge of emails from a variety of individuals; purporting to be deposed presidents, royalty and businessmen residing in various parts of Africa (more often than not Nigeria).

The content of these letters (colloquially known as the “Nigerian Scam”) follows a familiar format:

 Your name has been recommended by a reputable source.

 They have a large sum of money, usually exceeding $20M, which they wish to export from their country.

 They would like an “honest” person to conduct business with.

 They require temporary use of a bank account to facilitate that transfer.

 They offer a high percentage in return for this facility, usually 20% of the capital sum involved.

 All they need are the details of your bank account, phone number and a few other personal pieces of information.

 Contact details are provided, where a “real” person will interact with you.

In case you have not realised it, this is a scam. The perpetrators having duped the greedy and stupid into revealing details of their bank account etc, then empty it; and disappear with the proceedings.

Now, you would think that this was so obviously a scam; that no one would be taken in by it. However, regrettably this is not so; in my experience of fraud investigation you should never underestimate the stupidity, arrogance and greed of your fellow human beings.

The scammers manage to con, a not insignificant percentage of, the stupid and greedy out of some quite sizeable amounts of money. Indeed, such is the success (a testament to the “human condition”), that the number of these letters is on the increase. I find that I now receive more of these emails, than those offering penis enlargement and the more bizarre forms of sexual gratification.

The people who perpetrate this crime are, to use a technical term, scum. The criminal enforcement agencies around the world are doing their best to track them down, but as long as there are stupid and greedy people prepared to open up their bank accounts to these “Hucksters”; there will always be some form of “Nigerian letter”.

I therefore would like to present my “Worse Than Worthless” award to the perpetrators of the “Nigerian Scam”.

I have now started to keep a log of the letters I receive from these people, which shows the variety of ludicrous stories that are used to extract money from the greedy and stupid. The log can be accessed on the Stupid Punts section of my site.

I have edited out the email and phone contact details of the senders of these letters, to protect the stupid.

I would take this opportunity to remind all of you, that before taking any financial investment decision; you should consult a reputable independent financial adviser and lawyer.

Remember if it sounds too good to be true, then it is!

Monday, October 20, 2003

The British Airways Ham and Cheese Bloomer

Usually my “Worse Than Worthless” award is made to an organisation or company. However, I am making an exception in this case; and presenting it to a sandwich.

This particular culinary atrocity has been served to me on two separate occasions on the BA London-Stockholm route, on both occasions the sandwich was “Worse Than Worthless”.

I am, as you can see from the “Frost Bites” and “Accountants Can Cook” sections of my site, a lover of good food and an amateur chef. This sorry excuse for a sandwich failed as a source of culinary delectation on a number of levels:

 The wrapper in which it was presented noted that it would “expire” the following day. This clearly meant that it was not freshly prepared on the day of the flight; instead, I suspect, they are prepared in batches and stored for a number of days.

 On close inspection, having taken a bite, the slices of bread that comprised the “bloomer” had a chalky white luminescent centre. This, from my experience, indicates that the bread has been deep chilled/frozen. Fresh, is clearly not the operative word here.

 The contents, ham and cheese, really lacked imagination. I think that for a return ticket, that cost around £150, we should be entitled to something a little more imaginative. I would note that the alternative, for the vegetarians, were egg mayonnaise baps (which looked as though they had been sat upon). Clearly the menu was designed by the same people who cater for primary school children.

 On pulling the sandwich apart, I noted that there was no spread (butter or margarine) of any description on the bread; even prisoners are allowed butter or margarine these days! I cannot believe that the cost saving made by serving dry bread really makes such a difference to the cash flow of BA.

 The thinly sliced ham (no surprise there), was placed in the middle of the bloomer. However, the slices of ham were so small that they did not reach the edges of the bloomer. The same was true of the plastic pathetic excuse for “mature cheddar” (as it was described on the wrapper), a misnomer if ever I have heard one. I estimate that approximately 10% of the inside surface area of the bloomer had no contact with either cheese or ham.

 Hiding, shamed faced, between the cheese and ham was a solitary sad piece of lettuce; clearly embarrassed to be associated with this culinary abomination.

 Bland, is too complimentary a word to use to describe the taste.

I for one think that it is perfectly reasonable that on a journey of two hours that sandwiches, rather than a full meal, are served. However, the sandwiches should at least be a little imaginative as regards to the variety on offer; and be tasty and fresh.

How can our national airline hold its head up proudly, and present such a poor and embarrassing specimen?

BA, as you know, I have written to you before about this; when will you improve the quality and taste?