Please help this astronaut return from space

Pretty much everyone has received the offer to take part in what has become known as the ‘Nigerian Prince’ scam, that is also known as the Nigerian 419 scam. This takes the form of a letter asking the recipient to agree to be a partner in getting a huge amount of money out of that country that, for whatever reason, cannot be done any other way. All that you have to do is give them your bank account number and they will wire the money to you, you keep a hefty portion of the money, and send the rest to another account. Of course, all they want is access to your bank account so that they can drain it.

There is another scam where you get an email from someone you really know who claims to have been traveling in a foreign country and has been robbed of all possessions and is appealing to you to send money for him or her to get home. This scam is enabled when hackers get into a computer and gain access to that person’s address book.

Now I hear of a new scam that combines those two scams in a truly imaginative way. It involves, if you can believe it, a Nigerian astronaut who is stuck in space and needs your help to get him back to Earth.

Here’s the letter.

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home

Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555
Misau Street
PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,


I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager

If you are wondering how anyone could possibly believe such a ridiculous story with obvious errors and typos, I have written before about this scam and why they deliberately create such an implausible story. It turns out that an outlandish story is more cost effective than a plausible one. They want to make sure that the people who respond to these initial appeals are really dopes who will not later realize, as the scammers go through the process of getting them to take part, that they are being scammed

You have to give these people points for sheer imaginativeness.


  1. says

    It seems to me that people are optimized to understand one-on-one scams, but fall more easily for multi-way scams, which is why many scammers use confederates. That was what made the scam in “The Sting” so delicious -- everyone was in on it and presented a consistent story to the mark. I’m surprised the internet scammers haven’t figured our a multi-stage multi-way scam by now (I can think of several approaches, it would be easy)

    Of course the biggest and best scams are the ones that look like reality. I know two entrepreurs in the 90s who did a tech start-up on the basis of “if it works, we’re rich” and “if it doesn’t work, we’re rich anyway!” Basically they blew through the VCs money and had a good time for two years, but then rather amazingly got bought and wound up rich anyway. The big scans are things like Enron, Yahoo!, and Facebook. And the two-party system. Now there is a scam!! How much insane dollars do they roll through, and at least half that money goes … where? Even if the winner “buys” the election, the loser’s money went somewhere. It’s sheer genius.

  2. coragyps says

    I got my first Nigerian Prince letter on actual paper, with an envelope and an actual Nigerian stamp. They had used the Society of Petroleum Engineers mailing list and typewriters to compose it all. Only the astronaut part is really different….

  3. ljbriar says

    I once dated a fellow who was part of a network of people who deliberately messed with Nigerian scammers. I feel I should find his e-mail and forward him this letter. Such a truly outlandish story deserves the outlandish responses these people used to craft.

  4. Irreverend Bastard says

    “Of course, all they want is access to your bank account so that they can drain it.”

    This is incorrect. They can’t drain a bank account just by knowing the account number. They don’t need your account number at all.

    The scam works by them telling you that you just have to pay a small amount in advance in order to facilitate the transfer. And of course you pay. Pay a few hundred to receive millions? Count me in!

    Then, after you’ve paid that, they contact you again to tell you that they need to bribe a senior executive at the bank, or something like that. Of course, the need to pay something in advance never ends.

    You keep paying for bribes and stuff, and they keep telling you that the big payout is getting closer and closer.

    Let’s hope you run out of gullibility before you run out of money.

  5. komarov says

    Re: Nerd of Redhead, #5:

    Ah, but he never went to the is ISS but is on a 26+ year old Salyut space station*. Which might also solve naturalcynics (#2) problem: keeping that station going after all this time is likely to be a full-time job. Frantically bouncing around the station to fix system after system might provide all the exercise the astronaut needs to stay (phyiscally) healthy. Especially if he is wearing his spacesuit at all times, which is what I’d probably do if I was half a system failure away from breathing space.

    *According to wiki, the last station (7, as opposed to secret #8 from the mail) was launched in 1982, so this one could be up to 34 years old. And Mir had lots of problems after a ‘mere’ 15.

  6. StevoR says

    @ Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls : “I always have to *snicker* at those who don’t bother to check the facts.”

    Yeah, they’re so dumb is okay for them to be fleeced and ruined and suffer.

    Chya-aaarmig of you I’m sure. Bet you’ve never fallen for anything or ever made mistakes or been wrong yeah?

  7. StevoR says

    ^ Also you cribbing from John Morales songbook here?

    Fucking scammers. Not all scammers are this obvious. But all of them are scum exploiting the vulnerable and weak and they need to be tracked down and stopped from hurting more people I reckon. Don’t you? No? Too easy to victim blame here eh?

    Also nice bit of implicit racism regarding African nations and peoples and their ability to fly people to space. Think about it.

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