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Playing With / 419 Scam

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Basic Trope: A character is told that he/she will receive a large amount of money in exchange for moving money around for someone who can't, or is to receive a large Unexpected Inheritance from a Long-Lost Relative, provided he/she pays increasingly large fees to speed things along, fix problems, etc.

  • Straight: Alice receives an email allegedly from Prince Bob of Bulungi. He tells a sob story about zillions of dollars locked away in a vault that he cannot get to, yet somehow, Alice can, and if she agrees to help him shuffle money around, he will give her half of that money. Alice agrees to help out, wires some money to "Prince Bob," yet never sees any of the promised riches. Two weeks later, "Prince Bob" sends Alice an email saying that things have gotten complicated, and he will require her to send more money to fix it. Alice still wants a return on her "investment," so she sends more. Rinse and repeat.
  • Exaggerated:
    • The email missive is actually addressed to Alice personally, instead of just "Dear Sir or Madam," (or some variant thereof), and promises not only half the money, but that she will, if she wants to, become his bride, with all the privileges extended to a royalty.
    • Alice has been sending money to "Prince Bob" for years, or even decades. While she used to be a bajillionaire, when she dies, she is ''millions of dollars in the red. And her will stipulates that all her remaining money is to go to "Prince Bob."
    • Alice receives this missive as snail mail, despite it being the Present Day or 20 Minutes into the Future (and thus much more common to see such missives as emails.)
    • After receiving the email from "Prince Bob" she receives another email from the "President" of Bulungi, promising a greater reward if she aids him in the capture of "Prince Bob".
  • Downplayed:
    • The amounts promised and asked for are on the scale of tens or hundreds of dollars, not zillions or millions.
    • Alice receives an email from someone claiming to be an average Joe about to strike rich, and and asks her for money to help him earn it. When Bob receives the money, he claims that he was not able to get as much as he anticipated and sends her the percentage he promised her, which is not enough to recoup her loses.
  • Justified: Alice, who was scammed before and ended almost bankrupted, decides to play the same game with "Prince Bob".
  • Inverted: Alice sends an email to the Prince of Bulungi, offering to help shuffle money around in exchange for a percentage of it, despite him never having contacted her even once before.
  • Subverted: Alice is skeptical, but after some research discovers Bob is an actual prince.
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  • Double Subverted: Bob may be a real prince, but the real scammers are using him as a figurehead.
  • Parodied:
    • Prince Bob has no friends because although he is "real," all the other characters delete these emails, or at least their spam filters send emails proclaiming to be from the Prince of Bulungi to their spam folder.
    • Alice says that she's corresponding with the Prince of Bulungi. Carol tries to tell her that he doesn't exist and that it's all a scam...only to find out that he's real.
    • Alice replies that she doesn't believe Prince Bob, and that she's not going to help him. He replies indignantly that he'll just give the money to someone who "deserves it." Meanwhile, Carol agrees to do as asked in the same email missive...and within weeks, Carol is selling her house and moving to a private island.
    • The amounts asked for and promised increase into absurd amounts.
    • Alice does get money for her "efforts," but it's a currency that's worthless, due to Ridiculous Exchange Rates in Bulungi.
    • Alice is lonely, and receives an email like this. She replies to it because she's just so happy to finally have someone to talk to and forward Chain Letters to.
    • Alice receives it as a telegram, or a hologram message a la Star Wars, and grumbles about spam.
  • Zig Zagged: Prince Bob turns out to be real, but the scammers are using him as a figurehead. He then manages to contact Alice for real and is freed from the scammers, and Alice finally receives her reward.
  • Averted: Alice receives no such missive, either by email or snail-mail.
  • Enforced: Let's teach An Aesop about Get Rich Quick Schemes!
  • Lampshaded: "I got an email from the Prince of Bulungi today. He says if I help him, he'll make me rich!"
  • Invoked: Alice, a Naïve Everygirl who is down on her luck and living in Perpetual Poverty, receives an email promising her a large fortune for only a small amount of effort.
  • Exploited: Alice is scambaiter looking attract con men and get them to humiliate themselves for her amusement as well as revenge.
  • Defied: Alice knows that it's a scam, so she deletes the email and goes on with her day. Even if that means continuing to live in a shabby apartment subsisting on ramen noodles while working two jobs.
  • Discussed: "You think there really is a prince in Bulungi who can't get money out of some account and needs the help of a stranger half a world a way to get it?"
  • Conversed: "Oh, please. That's like one of the Oldest Ones in the Book!"

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