I remember creating my first email address close to two decades ago… The sign up procedure was brutal, requiring you to complete more fields than when you fill out an application for the Green Card Form I-551. After successfully opening my first email address I even started a side hustle where I assisted people open theirs, it helped pay for “time” in the internet cafes.
Back then one could only access The Internet in an internet café and the fairly affordable ones had atrociously slow speeds that it could take up to thirty minutes to simply log into your email, open and reply one email. Email servers where a bit strange, if you did not log into your account for a certain period, say 45 days your email address would be temporarily deactivated with all your emails deleted and after about 90 days without login activity the account would be permanently deactivated.
After losing the first couple of email addresses, I vowed to always check my emails at least once a month, not that there was anything to check really, the inbox mostly consisted of internet jokes and chain letters of the variety that not forwarding this messages would result in bad things happening to you.
I also joined a social network called Friendster, its defunct now but it used to be lit as you would say these days, eventhough the conversations would take days or months subject to internet café visits. I got a message from a stranger with a hot profile and a HOT email address asking me to email them. I did woner why someone would ask me to email them instead of simply messaging me via Friendster, but I was young, so I emailed.
They replied within seconds, it was exhilarating, having that you have mail screen pop up while you are there than having to wait three months for a response from someone. If anything, I was the one who was holding up the conversation going days without having had an opportunity to check my email. I made a point to check my email more frequently even of it meant sacrificing my lunch money for a couple of days so I could pay for a 30 minute internet session at an internet café because I knew there would be an email from A Nigerian African Princess.
She was fun to chat to, even though she had a tragic story to share, over the course of email correspondence she had wrote to me about how she was an orphaned princess seeking refuge at a convent. Her entire family had been slaughtered during a rebellion led by rebel warlords. A priest had saved her from massacre by hiding her at a local convent. After sometime she had confided that she thought I was a kind and decent person and that she felt she could trust me, there was something she wanted to talk to me about.
The priest who had been assisting her would also help us set up a telephonic date using the telephone at the rectory, I was to call at a particular time and ask the priest to fetch her and they would call me back. This was before mobile phones were common so I had to find a Phone Shop to make and receive the call from my African Princess. The appointed time arrived, I called and briefly spoke to the priest then gave him the number for the phone-shop landline, so they could call back.
Seconds later the phone rang, the priest said a few words then told me to hold for my caller handing over the phone to the princess. After the priest’s West African Accent voice and halting English, the princess’ voice was like honey poured over silk, her trilling laughter was melodic, it was amazing that she could still laugh even as death stalked her. Her father had been a crazy rich warlord; which was part of the reason he had been killed and she as the sole surviving heir to his multibillion-dollar estate had a target on her back unless…
…Unless, she could find a country to seek asylum, maybe gain citizenship,.. by marriage and in the meantime she couldn’t access her family’s finances because they were being monitored which is why she needed to transfer them to an international account where someone could manage on her behalf, for a 25% cut. Sweet sounding deal, 25% of multi-billion dollar oil fortune is a lot of money and imagine marrying a princess, even if it was for convenience. In the meanwhile, she needed me to wire the priest a bit of money for her upkeep, she would reimburse it, with interest of course, when she wired through the millions.. I said I would think it over and asked that she email the details.
The only thing that saved me from wiring the money was that I didn’t have any on me and then the universe and life conspired to keep me away from an internet café and the internet for over 45 days. By the time I next logged into my email address, my inbox had been cleared. While I was retrieving the princess’ number from my Friendster inbox one a whim I decided to search for it on Yahoo Searh (this was before Google) The email address was listed on a site for Advance Fee Scams
An advance-fee scam is a form of fraud that typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum.
This type of scam is also known as a 419 scam The ‘419’ part of the name comes from the section of Nigeria’s Cyber Law Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. Although these scams now happen everywhere in the world the practice was made common by Nigerian Con Artists known as Yahoo-yahoo or Yahoo Boys who specialise in Dot Com Cons and all sorts of online fraudulent behaviour…
PS I am an African Prince of sorts, my bloodline has royalty in it, that is why I celebrate the magic and mystery of my ancestry..