Today, it was a time for a little PC maintenance and, so I was furkling around the spam box on, looking to clean it up and of course I encountered all the usual mix of dubious invitations to extend and grow my manhood or make me rich with some strange scheme to launder money.

Among the spam emails were requests from, mainly Russian, unknown women to join them in a long and fruitful marriage or at least engage in the offer of exciting sex. That they are in my spam folder shows what I think about them, but it wasn’t always so.  Once I was a fully signed up, with super powers, 419 Warrior.

Know why I was called a 419 Warrior? Because 419 of the Nigerian legal code is the provision that is supposed to stop online scams and frauds.

A 419 Warrior fights back against the fraudsters and my modus operandi was to tie them up, keep them occupied until the last moment, keep them busy, distract them so they wouldn’t have time to scam the less wary. I replied to the spam letters.

Upfront, let me be very clear. I was not flattered by the passion flowing in my direction from vulnerable, mostly beautiful, young women. I was clear who was sending the letter. I knew, in all probability, I was conversing with a man sitting in a dingy Moscow or Lagos apartment and there is nothing flattering in that thought. I had a very clear image of my adversary.

I have just searched through my old emails to see if I could share a  verbatim trail but, I suppose not surprisingly, they have been deleted and, so I will have to recreate the sense of the conversations from memory.

This wasn’t my total life and, so I had to choose carefully which cases to take on. I had many, much more productive activities but this was worth 15 minutes of any day.

The decision to engage was easier if there was a photograph. I knew it wasn’t a photograph of my soon to be new bride, but if I could imagine her it all seemed rather easier.

The first email is always endearing and flattering. I was never aware that so many women in the wildest parts of Russia were in love with me and how much they needed a man, just like me, in their life.

Photographs were always an obstacle in the email flow. It would take them time to respond as I asked for pictures of my love with her family, friends, cat, or pet parrot. I never asked for anything salacious. It wasn’t necessary because they were always sent without request. The homely girl would quickly turn into a sexy siren and I would be sent increasingly explicit photographs.

Later, when Google released the tools to search for a photograph I chased one of these down to a Playboy centrefold. Yes, they were explicit.

I could spend two weeks in daily emails apparently tracking my bride to be from some distant Russian town to Moscow airport to fly and come and meet me. What was particularly interesting was that at no stage in all of this had I explained where I lived.   Only, she would know how to fly to me.

The emails would become more frequent and intense and then the grab.

She had arrived at Moscow airport and had been robbed! Tickets and purse had been stolen and could I immediately transfer to her over a thousand pounds so that she could complete the journey and consummate our love. That would be when I stopped and moved on to my next victim.

I have made light of this, but scamming is real and there is a serious point.

We don’t all fall for the penis enhancement or Nigerian scams but clearly some do, otherwise the scams would have stopped.

The scams come in many forms and are not so obvious. Just this week my mother received a text message saying that HMRC were about to launch a criminal investigation into her affairs. Had she responded we assume that somewhere down the line a request for money would have followed.

My response wasn’t totally altruistic. I had fun. For a short time, every day I enjoyed keeping track of where I was in each conversation.  I am not suggesting that we all don the armour of the 419 Warrior, but we must be aware. All we can do is educate and be on guard.

And me? The opportunities still arrive in my in my email box but I have retired as a 419 Warrior and left it to the younger.

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