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09.04.2008

A Real Nigerian Wine Scam

Anyone who has an e-mail account and has checked it at least once in the last 10 years has probably received an e-mail that begins:

DEAR SIR,

CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL

HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS.

Known as the Nigerian Scam, or more properly an Advanced Fee scam, this sort of fraud has been incredibly successful, despite what may seem to some as its completely over-the-top implausibility. Apparently a lot of compassionate (and in particular elderly) Internet users have lost a lot of money to the scammers, many of whom are actually from Nigeria.

In jest, inspired by an e-mail from my friend Jack, I created little post about a year ago entitled The Nigerian Wine Scam as a joke. Maybe not a very well executed one, but some people got a chuckle out of it.

But now, reality has again trumped my own vain efforts at humor.

There really is a Nigerian Wine Scam. Not of the e-mail variety, of course, but of the much more dangerous bottled variety.

Nigeria is home to some excellent sounding wines, with names like "Bacchus Tonic Wines," "Eva Wines," and "Blue Cocktail Wines." Unfortunately while these are legitimate brands of alcoholic beverages, someone in Abuja, Nigeria has been re-using the bottles, corks, and labels of these brands to produce fakes that are not only not as tasty, they are downright dangerous.

Reportedly concocted of "caramel, vanilla flavour, red and blue colouring substance, alum grains, gum Arabic, among others" according to The Punch, a Nigerian Online Newspaper, these "wines" also contained sachet water -- water from small, often hand tied, plastic sachets that have become popular sources for drinking water in Africa in recent years.

These sachets are widely regarded by the scientific and medical communities as being extremely unreliable in their manufacture (not to mention completely unregulated), and tests have shown that sachets can contain everything from extremely high levels of toxic heavy metals to all manner of water borne pathogens and microbiological contaminents (can you say faecal coliforms?).

To wit: the dangers to anyone who might opt for a glass or two of Bacchus Tonic apparently include entero-gastritis, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and organ damage. Not to mention a pretty disgusting taste in your mouth.

So next time you get an e-mail offering you the chance to receive a one time shipment of Grand Cru Nigerian wine, just hit delete.

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