A scam has been unearthed in which suspected Nigerian fraudsters reached out to unsuspecting people lying to them that a Nigerian is stranded in space.
Purporting to be written by Dr. Bakare Tunde, the writer made a false claim that a cousin of his, who he called Air Force Major Abacha Tunde, is the first Nigerian Astronaut to go to space.
In the bogus letter that was made available to MNN, a leading source for environmental news based in the US, the fraudster(s) claimed that the fake Major Tunde has been stranded in space since 1999, and has been longing for home.
The letter reads in full below:
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde, Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
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 [number removed].
Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
Tearing down the letter in the publication by MNN, Michael Graham who writes for TreeHugger and MNN about science, technology, cars and transportation ideas, noted that “the scammer includes a link to Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) for extra credibility. But anyone who looks into it will realize that Nigeria has never sent an astronaut in space.
“And the NASRDA was founded in 1999, which is 10 years after the astronaut in question went into orbit.”