We’re scamming

17 November 2018

9:00 AM

17 November 2018

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3074 you were invited to submit a scam letter ghostwritten by a well-known author, living or dead.
Falling for a scam is costly and tedious (and more easily done than you might think), but the comedian James Veitch found a silver lining when he decided to engage with his persecutors: the ensuing correspondence — lengthy, labyrinthine and often hilarious — went on to form the basis of a popular TED talk and book.
It was a tricky assignment, judging by the smallish postbag, but you made some clever choices of author whose prose style lent itself well to the art of phishing: poor spelling (Molesworth via Geoffrey Willans); apparently outlandish claims (Kafka). The winners, printed below, earn £25 each.

Dear Supporter of Justice
Someone has been telling lies about Mr. A. He has been taken in, to his great exasperation, for questioning on a subject about which he knows nothing. He had intended to go out in the evening — despite the snow falling, it was a pleasant walk — when his freedom was arbitrarily curtailed. Despite his protestations, has he been listened to? On the contrary, he has been sedulously ignored. Has he perhaps misunderstood the gravity of his predicament? Has he offended anyone? It is a bad dream! Since his arrest, the experience of which he found both troubling and yet trifling, he has had a run of luck which would tax the most decent and honest individual. The only way to assist Mr. A. is to provide him with a decent Advocate. You can help by donating to his JustGiving page at Thanks in advance.
Bill Greenwell/Franz Kafka
Felicitations from the Holy Land,
Where I, the sole survivor from a band
Of mercenary soldiers stashed away
Much booty; and concealèd it shall stay
Until a boat’s procured to sail me home.
I found your name within the Domesday tome,
A family respected and adored;
And honest — one I wish to share my hoard
Of riches with, for gems and jewels and gold
In England can be fortunately sold.
We’ll partner up, and since we’re men of wit,
I’m offering a fifty-fifty split.
To hire the needed boat, tonight, my man
Will visit to initiate our plan;
And once you’ve paid the thirty noble toll,
For secrecy, I urge you burn this scroll.
Paul A. Freeman/Chaucer

You may curse me for a whoreson scurvy knave and there’s many would agree — though pot, kettle, say I — but as an old sea-cook who once sacrificed a leg in mortal combat for his country’s sake, I swear on the life of my parrot, Captain Flint being dearer to me than a host of my fellow humans, that what follows is a true tale.
I have in my possession (do not be asking how or why), a treasure map of sworn veracity, marked with the spot where the spoils of piracy have been buried. Its history is stained with blood and shame, but its value is inestimable, and can do redeeming good.
Be my ally in this mission, and like good Christian men we shall turn evil into good, and Silver into gold. A mere hundred guineas for needful outlay will bring me post haste to your doorstep.
G.M. Davis/Robert Louis Stevenson

On occasions of this kind my duty to communicate becomes a pleasure. I have nothing to declare but the genius of fortune that has smiled on you. To lose someone is of course a misfortune but misfortunes seldom travel empty handed. A relative whom you may not know has bequeathed to you, in the dearth of closer beneficiaries, a sum of surprising magnitude, a sum that will supply you with all you have ever desired to live gloriously beyond your present means. The truth is never simple and in your case has involved months of research; but the truth is you are now worth millions. From a woman of no importance, perhaps, you will take your place among the wealthy of the world. A prompt return is needed and I request you complete the details below. I cannot overstress the importance of being early with your reply.
Frank McDonald/Oscar Wilde

Dere Deserving Resipient,
My late uncle, the Duke of Lagos, hav left me £50 million! Of course, he is only an uncle by marridge; a true Molesworth hav no Nigerian blud in his vanes. But he hav made one stippulashun: I must give half of it to 25 Deserving Resipients, chiz! So I hav selekted you to reseeve a million smackers. (My grate frend Peason sa ‘Give me a million, then’, but I tell him that sumone who is a weed and uterly wet canot be considered a Deserving Resipient.)
To cover my leegal and other costs, plese put £100 in a sealed enverlop and drop it in the hole in the hollow tree just outside St. Custard’s Skool. Once I hav reseeved this poultry sum, I send you a letter orthorising your clame. To get yore million, just present it to my lawyers, Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne.
Brian Allgar/Geoffrey Willans

Dear ___,
Want more than your share before anybody else has any? Me too. Signing up to the enclosed Get Rich Quick Scheme has this to be said for it: it’s better than squandering the rest of your morning gurning your Narcissus Metamorphosing Into Methuselah face into the shaving mirror or trying to chisel that unfeasibly hard white substance from the roof of your hungover mouth with toothpicks. Don’t bother reading the small print which, like the internal combustion engine or a wife, you don’t need to understand for it to work. The car and the girl, even the yacht if you can stomach seasickness, are waiting. Too good to be true? Well, somebody has to get rich and, as I already am, why not you? All you’ve got to lose is the ridiculous conviction that things this good don’t happen to you. Illogical, considering this one just has.
Adrian Fry/Kingsley Amis


No 3077: shakespearean sonnet

You are invited to submit a sonnet with the name of a Shakespearean character hidden in each line. Please email entries to by 28 November. Only three entries each per competitor, please.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments