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Shermer Spam Scammers Scam

by Michael Shermer, Mar 22 2011

Every week I receive invitations to speak at various venues around the world. On March 15, 2011, I received the following invitation to speak in London. As I was running out the door to go on my morning bike ride, I missed the obvious cues that this was a scam:

Dear Michael Shermer,

My Name is Prof. Peter Kopelman from the London Youth Community Here in London UK. We want you to be our guest speaker at this Year ST’ GEORGE UNIVERSITY , which will take place here in UK. We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our Guest Speaker at these year ST’ GEORGE UNIVERSITY Event.

The Venue as follows:
VENUE: St George’s University of London,
Cranmer Terrace, London, SW17 0RE.
Expected audience: 500 people
Duration of speech per speaker: 7PM-8PM
Name of Organization: ST’GEORGE UNIVERSITY
Date: Wednesday 30 March 2011.

We came across your profile on and we say it’s up to standard and we will be very glad to have such an outstanding personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. With your multi talented speech more lives will come close , Sorry about our late invitation it is due to the fact that our Speaker had back out because of her sudden illness.

Arrangements to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor our invitation. If you have any more publicity material, please do not hesitate to contact me. A formal Letter of invitation would be sent to you as soon as you honor our invitation. We are taking care of your traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including your Speaking fees.

Remain Blessed
Prof. Peter Kopelman
Ofice(+44) 702-401-8034

I responded that I wanted $5000 with partial payment up front and a first-class or business-class flight, plus hotel. Only later in the day did I look carefully at the email and notice this guy’s spelling and grammar was pretty bad for a university professor, plus the fact that his university uses a gmail account! His March 16 response to my request reads (and by “mist” does he mean the famous London fog?!):

Respected Michael Shermer,

Thanks for indicating your interest to be our Guest Speaker at this year ST’ GEORGE UNIVERSITY. We are  very excited and happy to have such a wonderful personality in our mist. We the event organizing committee had a meeting earlier today to deliberate on getting you available here within a short period of time. We believe we serve the lord of possibilities.Arrangements are stated below.

We have agreed to buy your flight ticket and to pay your Hotel accommodation expenses . Also your Speaking fee is amounted to $5,000(USD), Three Thousand (USD) deposit is to be paid as soon as you procure all relevant travel documents  so as to avoid any disappointment.You are informed to get across your CERTIFICATE to us so your deposit can be approved according to our mandated rules and regulation.

You are advised by the Event Organizing committee to immediately contact the BRITISH EMBASSY to procure your ANTI-TERRORIST CERTIFICATE as soon as possible

This will enable us to proceed with all arrangements to welcome you here in London. Contact the BRITISH EMBASSY information below.

Name: Dr Alex Alfred
British Email:

Please confirm to us the closest Airport to your location so we can start making arrangements to buy your flight tickets .Understand that you need to expedite action because of the short notice. Feel free to ask any question.

We have attached a formal Letter of Invitation  and contract agreement.Please reconfirm to us your office Address for our perusal and further action.Note you are meant to arrive a day before the commencement of the event.

Please return a signed copy of the contract agreement for proper documentation.

We await your earliest response

Remain Blessed
Prof. Peter Kopelman
+44 702 401 8034
Ofice(+44) 702-401-8034

Um, strange, “Alex” at the British Embassy also has a gmail account. And I wondered what this “anti-terrorism certificate” was all about, which I was quick to find out when I received this letter from the British Embassy Service:






So the British Embassy now sends letters out in ALL CAPS with no stationary? And “Mrs. Kelly Conman”? I think I know her husband, “Lefty Conman.” I replied:


I just got an email from Alex at the British Embassy. I’m afraid that I cannot afford the 1,000 pounds. I do not have any money in my account as I have just paid my taxes. If you can wire transfer the U.S. $3000 advance per my instructions in the previous email then I can take care of this.


“Prof Peter” replied:

Let me know how much you can afford then we can add to you from the university. I will be waiting to hear from you .

Wow, so the British Embassy is willing to negotiate the price of this certificate, depending on how much someone can afford. I responded:


As for what I can afford, as I said I have no money in the account I sent you as I just paid my taxes. So I will need you to wire transfer $3000, then I can pay the $1000 anti-terrorist certificate. I have alerted my bank to expect a wire transfer from you, and I gave them all your personal information, so they are expecting a wire transfer from you today. When that transaction is complete then I will take care of the anti-terrorist certificate.


“Prof Peter” then wrote:

This is the form for you to fill out for me so we can transfer you the deposit as soon as possible. I will be waiting to hear from you.


Um, credit card information? It was time to up the ante in this little game. So, I wrote:

Hello Peter,

I am very excited about coming to your university. And to tell you the truth I really need the money because, as I told you, I’m flat broke after paying my taxes. I gave you the information for transferring money into my account so when receipt of the $3000 is confirmed then I will follow the instructions from the British Embassy to send 1,000 pounds to them in order to get my anti-terrorist certificate. Otherwise I cannot pay the 1,000 pound fee and will not be able to come to London. That would be very sad.

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask of you. Would you please take a picture of yourself with a copy of my magazine, Skeptic magazine, in front of St. George University? I want to know what you look like so that when we meet in London I can find you at the airport.

Michael Shermer

The morning of March 17 I received the following email and photographs:

Dear Michael,

Good morning to your , have just got your mail and is nice hearing from you . Attach is the some of the photos of the university compound, the staff my photo of myself as well also the inside of the conference , am also standing in front of the university glass. Also as soon as you have procure the ANTI-TERRORIST CERTIFICATE, the hotel confirmation will be send to you as soon as possible.

Also get me aware as soon as you have send your payment to Dr Ales , so i can start up with the bookings of both the Flight and Hotel

I will be waiting to hear back from you as soon as possible ..

Remain Blessed,
Prof Peter

Prof Peter photo photo

Golly, that photo of Prof Peter standing in the doorway is so real looking! Time to get crazy with this loon:

Dear Professor Peter,

Thank you ever so much for the confirmation letter and photographs. I was wondering if you know the woman in the photograph next to the university sign? She is beautiful. I was wondering if you could fix me up on a date with her when I get there. I am single and am looking for a wife and have always loved English women. I love their accents, don’t you? Can you tell me her name and give me her email address so that I may introduce myself?

I will print out the anti-terrorist certificate form today per your instructions and send it to the British Embassy. I lost the email that Alex sent me, but I have the address of the British Embassy and will send the form and money to them. When they send me back the certified form I will email it to you.

Thank you,

“Prof Peter” Replied:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your mail , the woman you are talking about is one of the student and she is just 29 yrs old , there is no problem about that, I will hook you up with her when you get here . Also send your payment to Dr Alex to the address he gave to you , you can mail him if they can receive credit card.

I will be waiting for the signed copy of the contract agreement.

Remain blessed.

Well, if he’s willing to bless me and fix me up on a date with one of his students, how bad could this guy be? Let’s find out…

Dear Prof Peter:

My friend with money to lend me tells me that there are a lot of fraudsters out there and to be careful. If you or one of your associates or students will make a sign that says “I’m Skeptical” and stand in front of Buckingham Palace and take a picture of it and send it to me, I promise that I will send you the money. I need some sort of proof. Anyone could have pulled those photographs of St. George’s University off the web page. I need something personalized as proof, and the “I’m Skeptical” sign will do it. I promise.

Oh, also, my friend with the money wants to come with me. Will he need an anti-terrorist certificate as well? Is it the same price, or can we purchase two at the same time for a discounted price? Also, as I asked before, can we pay by credit card? I was wondering if we authorized $1500 for two certificates would that be acceptable? Please check with Alex at the British Embassy and let me know.


I then received this March 18 reply from Prof Peter:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your mail , i did not have any prove after all you ask me to get a photographer of myself at the front of the university and
have done that , i  have show you some prove , i have never deal with such a speaker like you before you are making this issue long. Also
the woman you are talking about , i have see her yesterday and i have discuss with her , she can not also wait to see you.

Well i have conclude with the Committee organization and they have agree with you opinion , paying the 1500usd for both of you, and the
university has agreed to pay the remaining of the payment for the certificate .

As you can see that we did not have much time to waste on this , and again do not disappoint us , because the university can’t wait to have
you in our mist event the woman .

The name of the woman is MARIA BRETT, and you can get in touch with her on the following email address …

Make the payment to Dr Alex as soon as possible , then try and call me on +44 702 401 8034 as soon as you have send the payment to him , so i can start up with the Flight Booking and Hotel accommodation.

I will be waiting to hear back from you as soon as you receive my mail

Remain blessed.;
Prof Peter.

Time to get crazy with “Maria” (who, of course, is just this dude with a different email address):

Dear Maria,

My name is Michael. I believe that Professor Peter Kopelman from your school has mentioned me to you. I am coming to London on March 30 to speak at St. George’s University. Professor Peter sent me a picture of the school and I asked him about you as you are in the picture. I would like to meet you when I am in town and maybe go out on a date. Would you like to have tea with me? Isn’t that a very British thing to do? Please tell me a little more about you, plus send me some photographs of you. I very much want to see what you look like before we meet.

Blessed be to you,

Then I wrote to Peter:

Maria has written me back. I am even more excited about coming to London, now just 13 days away! We are going to go out on a date!!

I finally have the money together for the anti-terrorism certificate and will take care of that today. But FIRST, Peter, you must provide me with personalized PROOF that I am really dealing with you and not some scammer. I need you to get one of your students to hold up a sign that says in big letters “I’m Skeptical”. If you do not do this then I am not going to send the payment today. If you go do this right now then I will go straight away to the office and send Alex the money. I have $1500 to wire to him today. If you want the $1500 you will make me the proof sign. If you don’t make the sign, I will not send you the $1500.


Then, amazingly, “Maria” writes back:

Is not that i did not want to send it , but i want you to come to Uk first then we can meet ..And again , Prof Peter told me that you will be coming to UK  soon that you have not procure the certificate , make it as soon as possible so we can meet . I will be waiting to hear from you . Also i will be waiting to receive your lecture here in UK  as well .

I responded:

Dear Maria, 

I finally got the money today to get my anti-terrorism certificate. I am going to take care of that today, but I have asked Peter for proof that this is not some internet scam. You know you can’t be too careful these days. You never know who you are talking to online, right? That’s why I am asking you for a picture. I need proof that I am actually writing a real person, a woman named Maria. You could be anyone. 

So, please send me a picture of you holding a sign that says “I’m Skeptical” and then I will have proof and will send my money.


The reply from Prof Peter finally came:


Dear Michael,

Have just taken a photographer which you requested for we are trying to best just for you to know that this is a real event coming up. As soon as you have send the payment to Dr Alex, send me the copy of the certificate, also the signed copy of the contract am still expecting it .

I will be waiting to hear back from you as soon as possible, I will also love to have a coffee with you when you get here.

Remain blessed,
Prof Peter.

And from “Maria”:

Dear Michael,

You are right , but i will have to confused you that am also happy that this event is coming up and i will love if you can understand . I know how you feel but i also want to know you as well . See my photo and i hope you will like them those are my new photo . also send me yours as
well . And again , i will be waiting for you in UK to meet you first before anything .

Bye for now


Time to get tough with Prof Peter … I wrote:

That’s not what I requested. This is just a photoshopped picture. Obviously you are not serious. I have $1500 in my bank account and I was going to go down to the Western Union office and wire it to Alex today, but I see no need to continue to waste my time and money when you cannot agree to my requirements, goodbye.

Prof Peter decided to get tough back … He wrote:

Dear Michael,

We did not have time to waste and let me know if you are not interesting any more .


Time to play my trump card—the “anti-terrorism” certificate, constructed for me by Pat Linse, the Art Director of Skeptic magazine!

Dear Professor Peter and Dr. Alex,

I have very good news! I decided to trust you and so this afternoon I went down to the British Counsulate-General in Los Angeles and I wire transferred $1500 from my bank account with Washington Mutual (account #666-42-1999) to the British Embassy through Western Union. Did you get it? They gave me a confirmation number to give you:

Western Union Wire Transfer Confirmation #419-2011-1984

They also gave me the Anti-Terrorist Certificate, which they signed and told me to scan and to send to you. I have attached it below. 

So, please, book my airline reservation and hotel and send me the confirmation numbers right away. I can’t wait to come to London and speak at your university. My friend with the money is coming with me. He will pay for his own flight and will book it himself once you tell me what flight you have booked me on. 

Blessed be to you,

mock certificate

I also wrote to Maria:


I am writing to tell you the good news that this afternoon I went down to the British Counsulate-General in Los Angeles and I wire transferred $1500 from my bank account to the British Embassy through Western Union.

They gave me the Anti-Terrorist Certificate, which I have attached it below. 

So now I can come to London and we can go out on our date together. Where would you like to go? Do you think you can introduce me to Prince William? 

By the way, you look different in the photographs you sent me from that photograph in the university picture. You had much lighter skin in that photograph but darker skin now. Have you been out in the sun getting a tan?

Please send me some more photographs of yourself, and make me the “I’m Skeptical” sign.


Finally, on Sunday March 20, Prof Peter wrote back:

Dear Michael,

I did not understand you at all , and again i did not know what you mean about the confirmation you are talking about and again you hav
procure a wrong certificate this is not the certificate we issue and you are not to procure Los Aneles but UK certificate. i will advise
you to go back to them and collet your money back that you did not need that certificate again , then you send the payment to the address
Dr Alex gave you .

I will be wating to hear back from you as soon as you have receive my mail .

Remain Blessed,
Prof Peter.

I didn’t respond for awhile, so Prof Peter wrote me with more “proof”:


Dear Michael,

Maria brought this photo to me on my office and told me that this is what you have been requesting for , i hope you are satisfy now .

I will be waiting to hear back from you .

Warm Regards.

Okay, now it’s time to get really crazy! So I wrote back:

Prof. Peter and Dr. Alex,

I’m shocked and very upset. Do you mean to tell me that I wasted $1500? Someone scammed me. I am going back down to that Los Angeles office and demand my money back tomorrow. I will keep you informed.

In the meantime, I have a wealthy donor who wants me to put together a scholarly book and he’s willing to pay $20,000 for a book about why the last four American presidents have been in reality alien beings from another planet. Do you know anyone interested in contributing such a book, maybe some of the professors at your university? A sample article would need to be provided since this donor is very demanding – he is an eccentric Buddhist nudist who believes that public nudism is not only healthy but essential to world peace. Do you know any nudist professors in need of $20,000? I can bring the money with me next week when I come to London. Are travelers’ checks ok? 

My wealthy donor sent me the picture below as proof of President Bush as an alien, and the alien who converted him.



Surely now the spam scammers will realize that they are being scammed! Apparently not, as this came in a day later:

Dear Michael ,

I got your mail and i was so sad because if you have listen to me this will not have happen and is because you did not following my word
and all you think is maybe we are trying to scam you . Well as you have stated in the mail , go back to them and collect your money back
, then send it to Dr Alex. As soon as you have send the payment to Dr Alex get back to me so i can start up with the Flight booking and
Hotel reservation and again the payment you are paying to Dr Alex will be payed back to you as soon as you come to London .

We can not wait to have you in our mist, also to have a coffee with you also Maria can not wait to go with a date with you .

I will be waiting to hear back from you as soon as you have read my mail.

As soon as you have get the payment back send it to Dr Alex , then when you get here we will talk about the Donor together with the staff here in the university.

I will be waiting to hear back from you .

Warm Regards
Prof Peter.

That brings us up to date to the present moment. I think I’ll pull the plug on this silliness now and get back to work, but at least I wasted this guy’s time and distracted him from possibly duping someone into actually sending in money. Oh, by the way, when I noticed that he said he got my name from The Amazing Meeting list of speakers, I queried the other speakers at TAM and, sure enough, they all received the same invitation to speak!

So much for scamming the spam scam scammers. It was worth a few laughs.

55 Responses to “Shermer Spam Scammers Scam”

  1. Other Paul says:

    Thanks for that. Laughter commenced round about the appearance of the Brit Embassy’s shouting, and gmail address and peaked at the Prof’s willingness – nay, eagerness – to procure some local talent for you. It’s such a hoot to have these creatures ‘amist’ us.

  2. Jacob says:

    Very entertaining. I love the pictures the guy sent. Copy/pasting Professor Kopelman was just awesome.

    If you’re interested in informing the actual Professor Kopelman of this scam, you could reach their main office at

    Kopelman’s personal email wasn’t listed anywhere.

  3. ZenMonkey says:

    I absolutely love the “I’m Skeptical” pictures. That’s just gorgeous.

  4. dwclwo says:

    This guys first mistake?… starting with “The Amazing Meeting list of speakers”. Not the best place to find gullible dupes.

  5. rob says:

    i haven’t heard from the Nigerian lotto in a while i wondered what they were up to now.
    the English in the first email is passable but it gets progressively worse i think the first mail was most likely composed by a senior scammer with a relatively good education and was sent to lots of people. once they had you hooked but needing more mails it worked down the group finally ending with someone who had a poor working knowledge of English. i just wonder how many people are employed in this.

  6. Max says:

    If only you spent this much time responding to blog comments.

    • Robo Sapien says:

      Impressive, sir. Well played.

    • Beelzebud says:

      The best way to proselytize Libertarian fundamentalism is the monologue. It get’s messy when you have to respond to questions and other view points.

      • Bad Boy Scientist says:

        Why do you guys always pick on Michael’s Libertarian beliefs and his assertion that they are based in skeptical reasoning?
        If you think about it, that’s no worse than all those Mormons who think meso-American archeology proves the Book of Mormon.

      • paul barry says:

        because they’re douche bags

  7. Adam_Y says:

    That is so freakishly bizarre. Apparently, someone is trying to scam the speakers of TAM 9. Another speaker actually got the same email located here:

  8. dqmorris says:

    It’s shame Michael that things did not work out between you a Maria. She seems like such a nice girl.

  9. Andreas says:

    Absolutely brilliant!

    Though you should give the scammer some credit, his first email wasnt that bad – compared to your average nigerian scam letter, where you are promised millions by some alleged bank director which cant even write one single straight sentence in English.

    Anyway, if any of you wondered. Mr. Shermer isnt the only one who has fun with all those scammers ou there – there actually whole websites dedicating to this stuff, e.g.

    Worth a few laugs…

  10. Jim Randolph says:

    Reminds me of this crazy story I heard on This American Life:

    These guys take the law into their own hands and send one of these scammers on a very wild goose chase for $ that never appears. It’s “Act I: Hanging In Chad” Hilarious and frightening!

  11. Umm... says:

    I’m somewhat taken aback that you spent so much time and effort on this… Perhaps for your next feat you could investigate this (presumably) spam email that I got from Elsevier…

    “On behalf of all the Editor-in-chief of Elsevier, we wish to Communicate to you that currently, we are accepting manuscripts in all Fields of Human Endeavour. Authors are invited to submit manuscripts reporting recent developments in their fields. Papers submitted will be sorted out and published in any of our numerous journals that best fits. This is a special publication procedure which published works will be discussed at seminars (organized by Elsevier) at strategic cities all over the world. Please maximize this opportunity to Showcase your research work to the world.”

    The semi-random Capitalization seems a little off, as does the gmail account from which it was sent. But I do so want to showcase my research work to the world… (cough)

  12. Paul says:

    Michael: Are you implying that you’re not going to accept their invitation? In that case, would you consider sending them my name and tell them I will stand in for you? Those Marias are hot!

  13. QuestionAuthority says:

    ROTFLMAO…Priceless, especially how you kept the scam rolling for so long!

  14. Max says:

    It’s funny that they chose to scam skeptics. It would’ve been ironic if it worked, though these scammers don’t sound like they’re going for irony.

    • Max says:

      Especially the whole religious angle is usually targeting religious people. Did this scammer think that The Amazing Meeting is a religious thing?

  15. Nancy says:

    I LOVE corresponding to my ‘friends from Nigeria’, as I like to think of them. (Yes, I realize that most of them are not from Nigeria anymore). We haggle over the details of how I can obtain my vast fortunes, I chuckle at their attempts to understand English idioms, which I sprinkle liberally in my communications. Meanwhile, I submit the email address they’ve given me to all sorts of online offers, like information about the harmful effects of toxins in the bowel, or psychic readings online. Sometimes I send the email address of one scammer to another and suggest they might find a wealthy participant.
    Gee, I ‘mist’ have too much time on my hands…

  16. Ugh…you’re supposed to ask them to send you pictures of them with a fish on their head as proof of their good intentions. Worked for me.

  17. tmac57 says:

    I think it was Dean Cameron having you on a bit Michael.

  18. Woody Emanuel says:

    That was fun, Michael.

    Interestingly, Mrs. Conman’s address, 114 ROMFORD ROAD LONDON,UNITED KINGDOM.
    POSTCODE E12 6P, does not show up (at least on Google Maps.) There is a 114 Romford Road in Greater London, but not at that postcode.

    So that begs the question, what would come of any funds actually sent to that address?

    We might postulate that anything sent to that address is automatically forwarded to a dropbox in another location, possibly a foreign country. But that would assume the postal authorities were not aware the street address was fake when the forwarding order was filled out. Certainly giving a traceable address would give new meaning to the dictum that one can never underestimate the intelligence of online scammers.

    I think the much more plausible scenario is a cabal of jolly skeptics playing a good-natured prank on Michael and his fellow skeptics to gauge the responses. Am I correct, Mrs…. Ahem… Conman?

  19. Thomas says:

    As a trained graphic designer / pretty decent photoshopper, I find the images a particularly nice touch. Thanks for the laugh.

  20. TerryKH2006 says:

    That was delicious! Haven’t had that good a laugh in some time. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Michael.

  21. Tim Jones says:

    I just read Michael Shermer’s wonderful email exchange with the scammer Professor Peter. I too had the opportunity to have a little fun with an Internet Scammer recently.

    I have a humor blog called View From The Bleachers ( It’s a weekly blog where I pontificate about anything from parenting to politics to Charlie Sheen. One thing you will NOT find at my web site are BLEACHERS for sale because, as I said, it’s a humor blog.

    So when I received an email written in fractured English asking me for a PRICE QUOTE ON BLEACHERS, I just could not resist having some fun. I knew immediately the person was a scammer. So I played along, adopting the persona of an unsophisticated small businessperson who manufactures the world’s “shiniest” bleachers. For added fun, I pretended to be of indeterminant ethnicity and pretended to hate all Mexicans (for no particular reason other than to have fun with the scammer). Well, he took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

    So I wrote about my experience in a two-part blog post called “My Fleeting Friendship with an Internet Scammer.” Feel free to post it at your web site, if you think your readers would enjoy it.

    Part I:

    Part II:

    I should mention that every email exchange mentioned in my two posts was EXACTLY as written between me and the scammer. My horrible grammar and spelling were all part of my scam of the scammer.

    Thanks for making my day, Michael. Your story was marvelously entertaining. I hope you might get a kick out of my story as well.

    Tim Jones
    View from the Bleachers
    Seattle, WA

  22. MasterZap says:

    Michael, if you like this kind of stuff, check out – this is a site dedicated to “reverse scam” scammers of the “nigeria letter” type (aka a “419 scam” based on the penal code number).

    There’s some seriously entertaining reading there. :)

    However, I (and the site) advise anyone to be cautious with this stuff. After all, it’s criminals one is dealing with, and if you tick them off TOO much… well.


  23. Glenn Davey says:

    Pull a scam on him where if he sends YOU some money, HE will get a LOT of money. The ol’ switcheroo ;) Might as well get paid for your time, yeh? I wonder if he’d recognize the hussle :)

  24. Gina says:

    I can’t quite make out the signature on the certificate: is it A. Lotta Krappe or A. Lotta Krapple?

    Thanks for starting my day with a good laugh.

  25. I felt under the threat of a scam when I read: “I missed the obvious cues that this was a scam.” This, like the Bush-alien photos, just cannot pass my throat.Great game though.

  26. That has got to be some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in a while. The sad thing is that it would not surprise me if they duped a number of people into actually doing this already.

    I bet if you asked for some nude pictures of Maria you’d get a nice block head crop over some nude photo from the net. It looks like they’re doing their graphic work in paint shop on Windows 3.1.

  27. MadScientist says:

    I thought all conference organizers used Google email addresses? Did I miss something?

  28. Robin says:

    This was very enjoyable reading. Email scammers can be more sophisticated than this person, however. I received one of the classics from Nigeria several years ago and decided to play along a bit. It was the one where they send you a check then you wire back a portion of that amount. I took the check to my bank to see how far it would go. It was written on paper from a bank in Texas. My bank contacted the Texas bank and they responded that the check was valid. I was amazed. My bank cautioned me that the Texas bank had one full year (or was it two) to determine fraud and expect me to cover their loss. I had a notion to cash the check and sequester the amount in a separate account and wait for the Texas bank to scream. My bank advised me against that, something about cashing a check known to be fraudulent. I surrendered the check to my bank and never heard a thing more. Oh yes, I emailed my friend in Nigeria that the check was fraudulent and never heard back. He wasn’t nearly as fun as Prof. Peter.

  29. Lee says:

    “We did not have time to waste and let me know if you are not interesting any more.”
    Yep, you’re still interesting, Michael!
    Loved reading how you wasted the time they did not have to waste.

  30. Ileana says:

    Awesome, I wish you would go toe to toe w/ this clown I got an email about last night (or at least ruffle some feathers). His name is Garret Lo Porto. He made a video about the bondage of the powers that be -so to speak, to inspire the gullible:, it’s all over Youtube etc. He then gives this manipulative, hard sales pitch claiming to be the “little guy” and “just making ends maeet” in order to join “the movement” you must donate $. People are falling hard! He is in fact the CEO of The DaVinci Affiliates Program among other Books/tactics to take peoples $$$, Oh and it really gets good in the link for those who can’t afford it! Hope you can check it out, I think it’s a must see! Enjoy!

  31. TomTom says:

    you might want to consider submitting your scam-pics to the 419 ‘Trophy Room’ gallery! Well played (although the guy with the fish on his head still wins by a large margin …)

  32. Ed Graham says:

    Don’t worry Michael, Sigourney Weaver has accepted the engagement, and will speak on “Gorillas in the Midst.”

  33. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    An aside, people who’ve won fortunes in the lottery claim that the worst part is all the conmen coming out of the woodwork to scam them. Maybe I’m weird but I think that’d be the best part!

    I’d invite them over to my new mansion 3 or 4 at a time and make them compete against each other to steal my cash… and I’d video tape it.

    Think “Survivor meets Jackass” and you’d get the idea.

    The con-women would operate a jack-hammer wearing a bikini and the con-men would ride a BMX bike without a seat. I’d throw in some “American Idol” (but in this version they would have to listen to *me* sing – and I’d judge them on how good their flattery is). The final round would be settled by a game of ‘Agriculture Check Point Mule’- where they have to smuggle a bowl of fruit through security. But unlike Michael, I’d give them money in the end. What can I say – I’d pay $1500 to see someone shove a pineapple into a body cavity.

    • Richard Smith says:

      The jack-hammer vibrates a lot, and is usually fairly cylindrical in shape. You’d probably have to tape or glue the bikini to it. OTOH, what would the con-women be wearing in all this?

  34. highnumber says:

    The Anti-Terrorism Certificate is priceless, especially the seal.

    • Rams says:

      It is signed by Alotta Krappe tho. She used to work in my local pharmacy. I used to think she would fit better in a government office somewhere – good career move, Alotta.

  35. Bitsy Freeman says:

    Very cool. Michael. Looks like you had some fun and games with them. Any ideas on what African nation they might be working from?

  36. Maria says:

    So glad to see that I’m not the only one who strings scammers along. Fun stuff!

  37. gwen says:

    I wonder if they know the definition of ‘skeptic’?

  38. Anders says:


    Hey! I think I know this student.
    She does sign modelling as a hobby. It *could* just be coincidence.

  39. Howdy,

    I got a whole bunch a friends over there in Nigeria and in consolates all over Afrika too. I’ve been meaning to send them some moulla made from proceeds of my moonshine trade here at trailer park but Miss Hathaway and Mr Drysdale down at the bank keep asking me all these real important questions that I can’t answer.

    I do email all these real important magistrates and consoles and tell them to be patient. Shucks I’m in constant grief as I reckon quite a few of our trailer park kin over there in Afrika have passed away in terrible accidents. They were quite rich cause these magistrates wanna send me all kinds of inheritence money too but I gotta figure out these modalities. Miss Hathaway can’t figure out what the modalities are neither.

    But I keep emailing them and ask them to be patient.

    I got cousin Jedd and Miss Hathaway helping me with the modalities.

    All come back now hear !



  40. bantamcc says:

    Hope everyone is familiar with site :


  41. Julius says:

    I really love this story.
    Even wnen it realized it’s been scammed, it still try until the last effort! LOL Great job Prof. Shermer! LOL!

  42. Maria says:

    Mr. Dr. Shermer,
    I was so dissapoint to miss you at our event! And to Think we could have had tea coffee if you had only a few more dollars american.

  43. Elvis says:

    Uh, I don’t see the problem.

    btw, did anyone else see this “Hitler house”?

    LONDON — An unassuming semi-detached house in Wales has become an unlikely Web star after Internet users decided that it looks a lot like Adolf Hitler’s face.

  44. I love decoding a good scam letter; unfortunately not only is the quality of language degrading but they are becoming more frequent.

    I recently wrote a brief essay on this very subject — and how to spot such a scam.

    I also did what Shermer did to the Mystery Shopper scammers. See

    A word of caution: You may win the battle but there’s a good chance your e-mail will be permanently inscribed in the scammers’ archives for future offers.

  45. Lark says:

    I read only about a fifth of this but saw that the author misspelled “stationery.” What does it say about me that I find THAT amidst all the syllables and characters.

    I am among those who love spam…I got an email from Desmond Tutu yesterday!

  46. John Dawkins says:

    i have a collection of over 100 different Nigerian scams; one of them quite interesting of a rich murderer who was told by god in order to go to heaven he had to give all his money to church; he asked for a church account [expecting a private account]

  47. Trevor says:

    That is almost exactly how we got Dr. Shermer to speak at our convention this weekend! And they took the same photographer to send,too. (That was my favorite redundancy in this story. How you wanted them to send a photographer of themselves.)

    I hope you can at least stay friends with the nutty professor and his sidekick. Looks like you developed quite a rapport.