The Spanish Prisoner

Friday, November 01, 2013


Over a century before the rise of the Nigerian email scam, there was the "Spanish Prisoner" Letter, a scam which bears a striking resemblance to the emails that still dupe people today. Bob talks to historian Robert Whitaker, who wrote about "Spanish Prisoner" letters in the history journal The Appendix.


Robert Whitaker

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Bob Garfield

Comments [1]

Tyson F Nuss from Tucson, AZ

Your recent spot on the Spanish Prisoner/Nigerian 419 scam was timely, as my friend and colleague, J. Randall Owens, just wrote this hilarious and surprisingly apt Halloween-inspired take on those messages, wherein infamy meets infamy:

My Dear Mr. Renfield,

My Greetings to you and your family. I am very sorry to contact you in this manner, But I respectfully insist that you read this mail for the sake of G— for the sake of Go— for pity's sake. My name is Vlad Dracula, and I am a Prin— my ancestor was a very powerful and wealthy Prince of Wallachia; since he was assassinated by political rivals, my family's fortunes have fallen, hence I myself am merely a Count.

Before my ancestor's death, he instructed and confided in me as his Son about the location of a hoard of the family jewels. I am currently esconced in the castle of my forefathers in Transylvania, Romania. Due to the recent war, things are very terrible for me here, and that is why I am seeking for your help. The government is going to claim the land where the hoard is hidden soon, and if I move it within my castle, it will surely be found and confiscated.

I wish to purchase a large estate in the vicinity of your beloved London, England. I seek your consent therefore, to present yourself being a foreigner, as the next of kin and rightful heir to these jewels and gold, so that we might use their value of (£3.2 million) pounds to transfer to your bank account in England for the purchase of an abbey or similar location, preferably adjacent to a cemetery and/or asylum.

The truth of the matter is that most of my country's government officials are very corrupt, and if this money goes into the government purse it will be squandered with reckless abandon, hence we decided to take this opportunity to move this fund abroad and use it for good purposes. All the necessary documents are availabe to back up the Deal. All I need is to fill in Your names to the documents and legalize it in the court here to prove You as the legitimate beneficiary. This is the story in a nutshell.

I will send you full details on how the business will be executed successfully and also note that you will receive 20% of the above mentioned amount if you agree to help me execute this business. Kindly send the following to me such as:

Your full Names: ____________
Your Telephone Number: ____________
Your private mail Address: ____________

I expect your urgent response with much anticipation. This is the second time I am sending you this proposal.

Best Regards,

Nov. 04 2013 06:00 PM

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