Rural Heritage Sale Barn

Horse Farmers and the Nigerian Scam
by Pat Holscher

The sign of a truly successful con game is taking on a name of its own. The Nigerian Scam, therefore, may be regarded as a success. Indeed, it is such a classic that it has been the subject of talk radio shows and is partially the subject of a book on internet scams.

The Nigerian Scam is so named because initially many of the emails characterizing it came from, or purported to come from, Nigeria. Today this prolific scam may come from anywhere over the globe, although exotic locations remain the rule for the generic form. A typical example begins: Greetings in the name of the lord, I pray that this email reach you in good health and state of mind. The contents of this email might prove slightly unbelievable to you, but I ask that you peruse through the contents with uttermost attention and thorough concentration.

In this particular email, from one Dish Khusab, goes on to explain how he's dying of an unknown disease, his wife and kids have died in a plane crash, and he needs assistance extracting a massive amount of money, which he earned while working in Zambia, from some undisclosed European bank. You have been picked out of the blue for some reason, and will get a share of the cash. Of course, you will have to send him some of yours, or your bank account numbers, to effect the transaction.

This scam has many varieties. Some try to tug at the recipients' heartstrings, like the example above. Others offer to let the recipient in on a fortuitous business offering, as does this portion of a Chinese example:

It is my pleasure to write you in respect of our organisation.We are experts in the sale of raw materials and we export into Canada/America and some parts of Europe.We are searching for reliable representatives who can help us establish a medium of getting to our customers in the Canada/America/Europe as well as legally recieving cash and all forms of payment on our behalf from them as our Representative.

Whether these scams appeal to a person's charity or to their hope for business success, they all appeal to a person's greed. And they all work in the same basic manner—they offer the recipient a huge financial payoff in exchange for some initial small investment. The mark, if he bites, soon provides banking information or credit card information to the con, who then separates the mark from his cash and disappears. The mark is then poorer and likely embarrassed as well.

Now how, the horse-powered farmer might wonder, does that affect me? Well, a variant of the scam is directed specifically at an activity that many horse owners engage in, that being the sale of horses. More disturbingly, it is sometimes directed at those who advertise horses for sale on the 'net. Here is a recent example of just such an email:

Hello Sir/Ma I am Femy Brown and one of a Suffolk Sheep Association based in Huddersfield. I saw your advert placement on the internet and I am interested in buying your [horses/mules/donkeys]. Kindly forward me your final asking price each. My shipping agent will handle the shipping and the pick up. And also let me know if you will accept a cashier's check drawn from US bank for payment. Thanks for your anticipation. Awaiting for your swift response. Thanks and God bless, Mr Femy Brown.

An entire collection of emails of this sort may be viewed online at the website of a frustrated horse seller calling herself Busted Up Cowgirl. She has taken the inadvisable step of fighting back by emailing them, but the letters make for some amusing reading. Several horse related forums have threads on the topic, including the Front Porch teamster forum at, where intended victims describe the fun they have with such tactics as asking the con to call them at work, but giving the number for the local police department.

This horse specific swindle works in a number ways, but typically the con sends the seller a bogus check, or bogus cashier's check. The check is drafted in an amount greater than that owed for the horse. The excess amount is supposed to be forwarded by the trusting mark to the shipping agent or some other representative of the so-called buyer. Since the mark drafts his check on a real account, while the con's is drafted on a false account, the mark is out pocket.

Most of us think we would never fall for such a scam, but the widespread nature of it suggests many do. It is not surprising, as often a person who wants to sell a horse or mule has a lot of emotion, as well as expense, wrapped up in it. An email from a person wanting to buy, let alone insisting that they send a cashier's check, is a powerful inducement. Moreover, only a fraction of the victims ever report it, as many are so embarrassed to have fallen for the scam they keep it to themselves.

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02 June 2005