Friday 28 January 2011


"Hello good evening."
"Who is speaking?"
"Please may I know who is speaking?"
"It's your Uncle from America."
"Which Uncle?"
"Make a guess."
"Uncle C?"
"Is it Uncle A?"
"It's not"
"Is it--"

"Chibundu get off that phone," my mother shouted from the bed.
"But mummy the call is from A--"
"Drop that phone now."
I slid the phone onto its hook.
"Mummy that call was from America."
"It's a lie."
"But the man said--"
"It's those 419 people jo."
"It might have been Uncle--"
"Don't argue with me. I know what I'm saying. He wanted to make you list names so that next time he calls he will use them."
"But what would he use them for?"

Ladies and gentlemen, forgive my naivety. That was my first encounter with a live and direct 419 phone call. Prior to then, I had received the usual emails. Dear Sir/Madam, I have access to General Abacha's stolen billions but not to a private email account and if you can help me, I will give you ten percent. Those sorts of emails flooded my inbox in the early noughties. However, never, ever had I spoken to a 419er on the phone. For those who read this blog but may not have had the opportunity to be scammed by telephone,let me explain what would have happened if my mother had not been there to stop my ten year old mouth from running.

"Hello goodevening."
"Who is speaking?"
"Please may I know who is speaking."
"It's your Uncle from America?"
"Which Uncle?"
"Make a guess."
"Uncle A?"
"Is it Uncle C?"
"It's not."
"Is it uncle E?"
"Haba you don't recognise my voice."
"It's Uncle X. I'm sure of it."
"You've come to stay with me before now."
"Oohhh.It's Uncle Kkkk."
"Do you even remember where I live?"
"Uncle K of course now, you live in Texas."
"And what's my address?"
"That's easy. 114..."
"That's correct. So it's your birthday coming up abi?"
"Not for a few months."
"Well the thing I want to send to you will take a few months to come."
"Ooh Uncle K what is it?"
"You just don't worry about that. Just give me the address."
"Uncle K you don't have our address?" (After all I wasn't entirely stupid)
"I have it. I have it. Just confirm it for me."
"Ok. It's...."
"Are your parents around."
"Where are they?"
"They're in the hospital."
"Which hospital?"
"Ah ah Uncle K you've forgotten their hospital."
"Oh of course. Em, em--"
"Life Support."
"Of course! Sorry, my brain is getting old. So how is school? Remind me of the name again?"
"It's called--"

And that is how this man would have spoken to me for half an hour and harvested all the details of me and my family in Nigeria and my family in America and maybe even my family in England. What could he do with this information?

Next time he called, it would be Q Hospital calling on behalf of my Uncle X who had been in a car crash in Texas. They needed to operate immediately but the sum of X thousand dollars had to be transferred into Y account by Z hours or else he would die. Or some other fantabulous story along those lines. And because they would had information from me, the unwitting mole, they could pepper their story with facts that made it seem plausible. For example, he gave us your address before he lapsed into unconsciousness, he mentioned that he wanted to be treated in your hospital before he lapsed into a coma and so on and so forth.

Thank God my mother was there to shout, "Get off that phone."
And that was the end of that.

What are your own 419 stories or close calls?


  1. Gumtree is ridden with wonderful properties at ridiculously low prices. If it's too good to be true, it almost always is! When they start asking for Western Union payment slips, emailed or faxed to them as proof of fund availability, you know they're dodgy.

  2. Nice. This is quite easy to fall for.

  3. Oooops...sorry..just read this..


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