Chess Trainers sought – by scam artists

4/8/2005 – Everyone knows the Nigerian scam, which promises people startling rewards in semi-legal operations, in return for a relatively modest advance fee. After decades of working under different guises the fraudsters have at last turned their attention to chess. How would you like a cushy job as a chess trainer in Lagos, with a $12,000 paycheck per month. You wish...

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The Nigerian Scam is a real fraud which costs its victims anywhere between a few thousand dollars up to hundreds of thousands. It's been around for a long time now – we can distinctly remember receiving one by post, then when fax machines were introduced by fax, and finally on a weekly basis by email. One popped out of our toaster, but we are not sure about the details.

The scam involves the old trick of suggesting to recipients the possibility of coming into possession of very large sums of money, and getting them to pay a much smaller fee to start the process off. A precursor to the modern variant appeared in Europe many years ago, when hundreds of people would receive letters saying a person with their name had passed away leaving behind an undisclosed fortune. Initial research, the letter continued, had shown that the recipient might be eligible to inherit part or all of the fortune. If they wanted the case to be pursued they needed to fill out a form and pay a small fee – typically $20 to $200. Naturally the scam artists were after this money, nothing else.

The particularly insidious part of the scam was the ease with which it was executed and the difficulty of stopping the perpetrators. For instance there would always be a genuine death – the scammers would simply take someone from the newspaper obituaries and write to people with matching names in the telephone directories. That was incidentally the "initial research" they had done. And of course the fortune of the deceased was genuinely undisclosed – to them. So this was essentially a simple mailing action which netted a considerably sum from people with a "what-the-heck" attitude who paid up for a lottery chance to get at some easy money.

The Nigerian scam (also known as the "Advance Fee Fraud" scheme) is more sophisticated and goes for bigger individual returns. The excellent web site Snopes.com explains how it works. Letters or e-mail messages postmarked from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, or the Ivory Coast, are sent to addresses taken from large mailing lists. The letters promise rich rewards for helping officials of the national government (or bank, or quasi-government agency or sometimes just members of a particular family) out of an embarrassment or a legal problem. Typically, the pitch includes securing multi-million dollar sums, with the open promise that you will be permitted to keep a startling percentage of the funds you're going to aid in squirreling away for the disadvantaged foreigners.

Should anyone agree to participate in the financial bail-out, something will go wrong. Paperwork will be delayed. Questions will be asked. Officials will need to be bribed. Money from you — an insignificant sum, really, in light of the windfall about to land in your lap — will be required to get things back on track. You pay, you wait for the transfer . . . and all you'll get in return are more excuses about why the funds are being held up and assurances that everything can be straightened out if you'll just send a bit more cash to help the process along. Once your bank account has been sucked dry or you start making threats, you'll never hear from these Nigerians again. As for the money you've thrown at this, it's gone forever.

The Nigerian scam is hugely successful. In 1997 people just in the US were taken in to the tune of around $100 million. This is not counting those cases in which the victims were too embarrassed to report their losses. Snopes tells us that the earliest incarnation of the scam dates to the 1920s. For anyone who is really interested in the subject we can recommend the following wonderful article by Douglas Cruickshank: I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash).

The Nigerian Chess Scam

The Advance Fee Fraud can be seen in many different forms, always with the same basic principle: you stand to make a very large amount of money, if you are only prepared to invest a small sum to get things going. After producing countless variants the scam artists have at last turned their attention to chess, as our brother site, Chess Drum, is reporting.

According to the Chess Drum article chess players have in the past couple of weeks started to receive messages, purportedly from the Nigerian Chess Federation, which has set up the "Nigerian Chess Trainers Committee (NCTC)" and is now recruiting trainers for their national team. This is what you can expect if you are one of the lucky appointees (original orthography): "The welfare of the chess trainers would be catered for by NCF and their flight tickects to Nigeria would be arranged by the Nigerian Embassy. The trainers would be lodged in Sheraton hotels Lagos for their 2weeks stay and would each be paid $8000 for their 2weeks stay. After this 2weeks any trainer that decides he wants to stay would still be catered for by NCF, he or she would be moved to his or her own apartment, would be paid $12000 monthly and would be given citizenship."

Not a bad deal, and one which is bound to have underpaid chess masters salivating. There is of course the usual tiny little problem: you need to send your name, address, bio data, fide rating and your qualifications as a chess trainer – and a $980.00 fee to cover your work permit.

Naturally this is an Advanced Fee scam, as Olape Bunmi from Nigeria has confirmed (if indeed confirmation is needed). So chess trainers, masters, enthusiasts beware: the only thing you can get out of this tempting offer is a $980 hole in your bank account. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and even more emphatically no such thing as a $150,000 chess training job.

Postscript

We have just learnt, from Dr Daaim Shabazz of The Chess Drum, that there is a web site mentioned in the scam messages that has been set up using material and pictures from ChessBase news reports (e.g. reactions to Kasparov's retirement). "I have visited the website," writes Daaim. "They have copied content from various chess sites without providing proper citation. In addition they are also presenting this site as a representation of the Nigerian Chess Federation. I know several players from Nigeria and a couple of the administrators and I can assure you that they would not erect a site so poor in quality... minus the national colors no less! To protect the integrity of our beleaguered sport as well as those of us trying to promote chess, we need to stand against such actions lest chess will continue to suffer public image problems."


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