Five ways Nigerian scammers can improve operations

My fiancee and I are looking for a place to live in Denver. Nothing fancy, just a one- or two-bedroom rental, hopefully with a dishwasher and a closet big enough for her shoes, which is to say a closet the size of a Chrysler minivan. Yesterday, she stumbled on an ad on Craigslist for a three-bedroom "bungalow" east of Wash Park. It looked a little beat up, but still: $800? For a three-bedroom? It seemed too good to be true. Of course, it was.

The response to her e-mail started with "Thanks for your response regarding your interest in having my house for rent," and it went on from there -- a classic Nigerian scam. The princes, once known for their direct e-mail pleas for help, are diversifying.

We did some cursing and moved on, but I couldn't help but think: After nearly a decade of trying to dupe hapless Americans, the Nigerians really haven't improved their racket at all. Whether it's a bank robber sprucing up the penmanship in his note or a despot trimming his evil mustache, you've gotta keep your game tight, criminals.

So here are some ideas for how the Nigerians can improve operations, increase revenue and buy much more princesses and heifers for the homeland!

1. Say you're from San Antonio. Or anywhere in North America, really. Tacoma. Knoxville. Ontario. Tell me that you had to leave your home quickly to do missionary work in any of these place -- thus explaining the low rent and hastiness of the transaction -- and I'll be much more likely to return your e-mail. But after a decade of reading stories about Nigerian scammers, it sort of sets my radar on fire when you say you're "presently in West Africa for my Hospitals Project prayer crusade." Particularly when you sign your name "Alyssa B. Phillips."

2. Hire a copywriter. Of course, I won't believe that you're from San Antonio if you continue with the same sloppy prose. Your misplaced prepositions, your random use of ellipses -- it's all a dead giveaway. So once you decide where you want to pretend to be based, search that area for out-of-work journalists and offer them $.25 a word or so for them to write your e-mails. There should be a couple hundred of these folks in any major city you choose. They'll put up a fight about the pay at first, but hold strong. They'll come around.

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3. Kill the prince bit. We've all seen Coming to America. We know African princes are way too busy bathing and disappointing James Earl Jones to be running a Craigslist scam. So if you insist on being honest about your whereabouts -- which, again, we discourage -- at least tell us you're a farmhand or a pirate, something we can believe.

4. Speaking of being realistic... I realize the seemingly amazing deals -- "4BR, ocean view, horny cheerleader neighbors, $275/month!" -- are how you get people to bite in the first place. But here in America, Nigerian Guy, we traffic in a little thing called subtlety. You want to lure me in? Throw in just a little extra -- a washer and dryer in an apartment, off-street parking in Capitol Hill, walking distance to Shotgun Willie's. It's these little details that might set your place apart without making me immediately suspect that some malnourished guy in a Burger King crown is sitting in the Sahara trying to steal my money.

5. Branch out. Your forays into romance and real estate were indeed wise, as people looking for love and houses on Craigslist are equally desperate and often quite dumb.

But why stop there? Craigslist is a vast scammer's paradise, and you would be smart to cultivate other areas. Hookers, for instance. Horny guys are as gullible as anyone, and would surely Paypal you some cash if you promised to send "very much lovely princess who will please your every desire." Concert tickets, too. These Lady Gaga fans are quite desperate, and if tell them you "love this Gaga of Lady much so but alas cannot attend due to an urgent matter regards to my kingdom of Sarasota," they just might go for it.

That is all my friend. I hope these friendly tips help you in your endeavor. And one more thing: That place in Wash Park -- does it have A/C?

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