Wow, watch out for this:
At first, the e-mail message reads like all the others: There's the need for confidentiality. An assurance that the transaction is completely legal. And the inevitable appeal, in awkwardly formal language, for help in procuring a large amount of money.
This may come to you as a surprise (to borrow the language of such e-mail notes), but the message was not sent by someone claiming to be an African potentate's heir. Instead, it says, it was written by President Bush, the son of a former president, who seeks your urgent assistance in financing the removal of Iraq's leader. His "trusted intermediary" for the transaction: the Internal Revenue Service.
The spoof was written by Zoltan Grossman, a geography professor at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Like most people in the wired world, Professor Grossman, 41, has been swamped with e-mail messages from Nigeria and other foreign lands, seemingly sincere solicitations that are really schemes designed to defraud gullible recipients with promises of quick riches.
Although Professor Grossman routinely deletes such messages, he was prompted to write his parody after Mr. Bush's efforts to raise economic and political support for a war on Iraq began to remind him of the messages from Nigerian spammers.
"They're all from the son or daughter of a former ruler," he said. "A lot of them talk about oil money. And they need huge sums of cash very quickly. I thought, Why does this sound so familiar?"
Professor Grossman sent his spoof to two Web sites on Jan. 21, and it has spread rapidly from there. The full message can be read at www.scamorama.com/gwb.html
. The parody is a witty variation on a vintage scam. Its victims are promised a big payoff if they supply money to gain access to, say, a bank account. Of course, the payoff never materializes.
The Nigerian Fraud E-Mail Gallery, at www.potifos.com/fraud,
holds 420 different examples. Lawrence Kestenbaum, a researcher at the University of Michigan who is the site's operator, said he had 1,000 more entries to add.
A White House spokesman said he had not seen Professor Grossman's sham spam. Nor are unsuspecting readers likely to be duped by the spoof, in part because its stilted prose differs from Mr. Bush's colloquial style.
Still, Professor Grossman said, "Let's hope no one takes it seriously and actually donates," as the e-mail requests, 10 to 25 percent of one's annual income.
E-mail Spam Scam Is Sent in Bush's Name