Diplomat held at JFK airport with a lot of cash - a convoluted Nigerian email scam

Filed Under: Featured, Spam

Departure boardEmail scams often take various forms - but typically they will claim that you have the chance to pick up millions of dollars (perhaps from Mrs Gaddafi, or a non-existent lottery, or a serviceman who has stumbled across a fortune while despots flee the country).

Victims are tricked into handing over money in advance (this is why it's caused advance fee fraud) in the hope of receiving their supposed fortune. All they end up with, however, is a large hole in their bank account.

The following email scam that I came across takes a rather different approach.

Here's a summary of the story that the email tries to sell you:

1. Police stopped a female diplomat at JFK airport, who was found to carrying a package to your doorstep.

2. The woman didn't know what the contents of the package were - but it turns out it was a "huge amount of money".

3. The diplomat is being detained until the police determine how the fortune came to be yours.

4. The police would like you to contact the person who asked the diplomat to take the money to you (they handily provide a Gmail address, an AOL address, and a Nigerian telephone number), as apparently if you forward a certificate from them the money will be released.

5. But if you *don't* send the certificate you will be charged with money-laundering! Nasty!

6. "Thanks for your understanding and co-operation"

Here's the full email:


We, office of the international police authority (IPA) hereby write to inform  you that we caught a diplomatic lady by the name Mrs. Vernon [REDACTED] at (John  Kennedy International Airport) here in New York with a consignment box filled with United States Dollars.

Base on our interview to the diplomat she said that the consignment box belongs to you and that she was sent by one Edward [REDACTED] to come deliver the consignment box to your doorstep not knowing that the content of the box is money.

Now, the diplomat is under detention in the office of (IPA) security, and we cannot release her until we carry out our proper investigation on how this huge amount of money managed to be yours. So, in this regards you are to reassure and prove to us that the money you are about to receive is legal by sending us the Award Ownership Certificate showing that the money is not illegal.

Note, that the Award Ownership Certificate must to be secured from the office of the Nigerian Senate President, because that is the only office that will issue you the original Award Ownership Certificate of this funds, this is because the fund originated from Nigeria.

You are advised to forward immediately the Award Ownership Certificate if you have it with you, but if you do not have it, we urge you to contact back the sender of the diplomat to help you secure the Award Ownership Certificate if at all you do not have it.

Below is the contact information of the person that sent Mrs. Vernon [REDACTED] as provied by her;

Name: : Edward [REDACTED]
Email: edward[REDACTED]@gmail.com or edward[REDACTED]@aol.com
Phone: +234[REDACTED]

Furthermore, we are giving you only but 3 working business days to forward the requested Award Ownership Certificate. Please note that we shall get back to you after the 3 working business days, that if you didn’t come up with the certificate we shall confiscate the funds into World Bank account then charge you for money laundering, but if you forward the Award Ownership Certificate then we will release diplomat with your consignment box also gives you every back up on the money.

Thanks for your understanding and co-operation

Yours Truly,
Agent. Douglas [REDACTED]
Tel: 813-[REDACTED]


CC: Canadian Police
CC: Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG)
CC: Egmont Group
CC: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
CC: Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
CC: International Monetary Fund (IMF)
CC: International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO)
CC: International Banking Security Association (IBSA)
CC: International Air Transport Association (IATA)
CC: Institut de Formation Interbancaire (INSIG)
CC: World Customs Organization (WCO)
CC: Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
CC: Offshore Group of Banking Supervisors (OGBS)

Hopefully you would never be tricked by such an email. But can you honestly say that you don't know anyone elderly or vulnerable who wouldn't be fooled?

The truth is that scams like this *do* make money and *do* fool some of the people some of the time. There's an active industry of scammers attempting to defraud vulnerable people via email - so be on your guard and warn your friends and family.

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18 Responses to Diplomat held at JFK airport with a lot of cash - a convoluted Nigerian email scam

  1. Claudia · 1438 days ago

    Regularly I receive such emails and it is always very exciting what new stories are developed. :-)

  2. jmb98115 · 1438 days ago

    Just go ahead and deposit in my Wells Fargo account... except that I never had one.
    Go phish.

  3. Deshika · 1438 days ago

    Wow. I really can't believe this scam is still occuring.

  4. Deanna · 1438 days ago

    Wow, nice twist on an old scam. By using fear to motivate a person to take action, I could definitely see some people taken in by it. Seriously, though... Don't most people by now know to RUN when they see an email that has anything to do with Nigeria? Nigeria is the home of most scams, for pete's sake!

  5. PJAO · 1438 days ago

    How would anyone think it's real when the grammar is so poor, the agency name is wrong, etc... what is it with people that, since it looks like it comes from a place of authority, they don't feel the need to check and trust it nearly implicitly ...
    Check, recheck and verify ... especially when it comes to MONEY !!

  6. Erica · 1437 days ago

    I notice they include the North Yorkshire Police in their cc: list. LOL!

  7. Reg · 1437 days ago

    I always check my spam folder in case genuine emails find their way there. I can usually tell by the subject line and rarely open suspect emails. Occasionally I get caught out and open a message but have never been scammed as I always use 'full headers' to double-check authenticity. Anything badly spelled or from Nigeria is an instant turn-off.

  8. michelindas · 1437 days ago

    The worst email scam I ever saw or heard was the Anus (yes Anus) laptop scam. The emailed man took a scammer and actually got money FROM the scammer, while dumping all these bad laptops on him... and the SCAMMER paid the shipping fees: http://www.thescambaiter.com/forum/showthread.php... absolutely wonderful....

  9. Noooodlez · 1436 days ago

    We had a phonecall from an Indian supplier at work once asking if we would give an advance on future orders we would place with him, the reason being his family were being held hostage in return for a ransom of several thousand pounds. This wasn't a scam and we did give him an advance!!!

  10. heywood jablome · 1405 days ago

    Anybody who ends up 'screwed' by this scam deserves it....wake up!!

  11. GloriainFla · 1405 days ago

    Did anyone notice that the redacted phone number was not from New York, where JFK is, but the Area Code of Tampa FL.......interesting!!

  12. Derps · 1403 days ago

    I find it amazing, I once replied from my junk email account to them telling them to try a bit harder, guess they did. Still a poor attempt to separate a fool from his money.

    Hey I know! All those assassinations Obama has called for lately, can we have him call for the assassination of these idjits?

  13. Raven · 1400 days ago

    I get 1000's of those emails a month and I just reply back to make them think I'm going along but I always do it in a way that it's very obvious I'm full of crap. What makes it so hilarious is the scammers believe whatever I tell them. Idiots! LMAO!

  14. Lynne · 1398 days ago

    Every week I win the lottery in China or Austrailia or somewhere. Funny thing is, I've never entered! As soon as I see an e-mail that starts, "Greetings" or "Good Day" or even see the word Nigeria, I just delete it! I gues when people are desperate, they like to believe it's possible. But you have to remember, you don't get anything for nothing, and also, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

  15. Jim P. · 1390 days ago

    "All they end up with, however, is a large hole in their bank account."

    And sometimes they wind up kidnapped for ransom or dead. These people play for keeps. Several variants of this scam are meant to lure the sucker to Nigeria or some othe rcharming plague spot and then they "gotcha". Ransom demands or the "badger game" (in which a fake officla shows up, accuses you of bribery or square-dancing in a roundhouse or similar and you're going to jail unless you pay up pronto.)

    A few people wound up fairly dead when things went sour.

    There may be honest people in that part of the world but the evidence disputes it. read the various news report about "prosecution" of this stuff in Nigeria, it's laughable as it is usually obvious the judge was bought off.

  16. Bob G. · 1305 days ago

    Well Well I just recieved a series of emails since 2-9-2012
    first - informing me some money has been sitting in an account for 6 years and the gentleman, as well as his wife and children, perished in an accident over there, same last name as mine (possible relative???). The bank wanting to close account out.
    Sent reply I.D.ing myself (name, phone,age) W/ short note.
    2-15-2012 recieved 2nd email. Time growing short send more detailed info (personal).
    Sent back info not available nor any funding as well.
    3-6-2012 Got this I.P.A. email clicked on connect to reply W/a letter of explanation asking for Award Certificate from them to claim package and to get the diplomat released from custody. 8.5 hrs later recieved reply -send more info (personal).
    Decided, before replying, to contact I.P.A. and found my 1:10 A.M. LETTER instead Sooo, looks like I made a WISER choice because, in my email to them I told them about TV shows documenting SCAMS from thier area of the world and that I was UNDERSTANDABLY WARY OF FIRST COMMUNICATION W/ AFRICAN REPS.

  17. Both sides · 919 days ago

    Sorry, was that really "monitory crimes"? as in admonitory or premonitory ones? Or did they mean promontory climbs, perhaps, garbled by poor voice-to-text software? (Shakes head, ambles away.)

  18. Dillip · 536 days ago

    Really dude I enjoy these scam mails for sometime by sending them reply and asking them the required money to my account by saying I have arranged 20% of the amount and please arrange rest 80% and deposit to my account but nobody still not depositing ...... Its a solid back kick to the scammer....

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at https://grahamcluley.com, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley