Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Other Nigerian Scam

Volunteer to organize a conference and I guarantee you will get an email like the following
I am a computer scientist from Nigeria. I am interested in attending your conference. I come from a very poor university and I am in need of funds and/or please write me a letter for visa.
They play to our vanity and our desire for diversity. Wow, Africans interested in computational complexity! Don't be fooled, in nearly every case they have no interest in computer science, they just want an easy way to come to Europe, the US or Canada.

There is that small chance a poor African student really is interested in complexity so I typically reply to such letters by

Thank you for your interest in our conference. Please send us your latest CV and a statement explaining your reasons for attending the meeting and we will be happy to consider your request.
In every case I have never heard from the letter writer again.


  1. Interesting.

    Have Uday and Qusay Hussein or Imelda Marcos tried to register for FOCS yet?

  2. It turns out that FOCS 2002 which was held in Vancouver had about 5 people actually registered from Nigeria, none of whom showed up.

  3. "Wow, Africans interested in computational complexity!"

    Yes, we actually do exist!

    That said, I completely understand where you are coming from.

    It is a shame that these scammers try to take advantage of the trusting nature of academics.

    I think your solution is a good one, any genuine academic should have no problem providing the type of documentation you requested.

    --An African

  4. How about what is happening to us :-

    a) they sign up, pay the fees with a stolen credit card number, then are unfortunately not able to come, so request re-imbursement - to a different account (presumably their own).

    b) we believe some of the people applying to attend plan going to disappear once they arrive in our country

  5. As a conference organiser in australia, I get these sort of emails about 30 times a week. They really get on my nerves!