A venerable sub-genre of confidence trick in which people claiming to be corrupt government officials from Nigeria (or sometimes another West African country like Cameroon) seek the assistance of willingly complicit Westerners to launder money for them. Snail mail versions of this scam have been circulating for many years, and e-mail versions are now surfacing. A first approach will typically claim that the writer of the letter has diverted funds from an aid package, skimmed something off the top of a government contract or otherwise laid hands on a large wad of cash by less than savoury means -- and needs a handy offshore bank account (yours) to get the money out of the country. Anybody stupid enough to follow this up -- and it does happen -- is then told a long story the upshot of which is that they need to contribute a large sum up front in order for all of this to work, after which they will of course get it all back plus a nice cut of the proceeds. You can guess what happens next.

This is possibly pure urban legend, but I have been told that there are people who financed trips to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta by taking home suitcases full of American telephone directories, which they then sold off page by page to eager entrepreneurs back home. Apparently in some circles this is viewed as a pretty legitimate business -- under the assumption, I suppose, that anybody dumb enough to fall for a scam like this deserves it.