New Nigerian scam targets deaf community

AUCKLAND (12/09/2003) - The latest Nigerian e-mail scam is deliberately targeting deaf users and the Deaf Association is warning members not to respond to the scam.

Deaf Association executive member Kim Robinson received an e-mail asking for assistance in retrieving US$15 million from an African bank account. However the e-mail differs from the usual run-of-the-mill Nigerian scam in its introductory paragraph: "My name is Melaine, 24 years old and I'm also a deaf. I am the only Daughter of my late parents Mr and Mrs Ajamu."

Robinson forwarded the e-mail to other Deaf Association executive members and also to the Auckland-based Internet Safety Group (ISG), seeking to warn other deaf users.

"My reason for this is the low literacy levels some deaf Internet users have," he says. Robinson says the use of the word "deaf" may be enough to convince some recipients that the e-mail is real.

However, association CEO Jennifer Brain says low literacy rates may actually help deaf users avoid the scam.

"Some of these letters are very wordy and lengthy and many would be put off trying to decipher the meaning."

Brain says that to her knowledge no association member has been taken in by the scam.

Robinson says he has been in touch with other deaf community members who have been affected by spam, although this is the first one to directly target the deaf community in particular that he's seen.

"Earlier this year, I had a Maori deaf person tell me his 'uncle' in Nigeria passed away. Being deaf he did not realize the e-mail he got was a scam and he was mourning for nothing."

ISG director Liz Butterfield is appalled the scam would target an "at-risk" group like the deaf community.

"Will these spammers be targeting other at-risk groups in future?"

Consumers' Institute chief executive David Russell says the same rules apply in this instance as in all cases of e-mail scams.

"Don't reply, don't respond in any way, don't do anything, just get rid of it."

Russell says it is extremely dangerous to get involved with the scammers in any way.

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