We've all received that email at least once before. A kind prince/princess/spambot in Nigeria has millions of dollars (but never millions of pounds), and better yet, they want to split it with you. Just hand over your social security code and wait for them to arrive on American soil. As the above newspaper clipping shows, these types of scams were going on even before email came around—in this case, as early as 1876.
You see, newspapers are what your forefathers used to read Tweets. This particular one, The Alamance Gleaner, came with a warning on Tuesday, March 7th about a recent scam meant in which "wealthy New York grocers" would snag money from unsuspecting country farmers. The entry reads:
Here is one of the latest swindles. A Country grocer receives a letter stating that, from his name, he may possibly be a cousin of the writer, who, should such be the case, is willing to make him a proposition. This long lost cousin in New York has $9,000 (£5,700) worth of groceries, on which he wishes to realise at once. They shall be shipped at once, and the country cousin will be able to sell them at 15 per cent, under the market price, keep one-third of the amount and forward the balance, the relative in the country to pay all expenses of the sale.
In case the offer is accepted, there are a quantity of storage and cartage fees to be paid, it turns out, afterwards of course. The money is perhaps sent and then all the merchant has to do is to await the receipt of the goods. He must not get impatient if his cousin in New York hasn't sent them, for he may yet have to wait a very long time.
Looks like our generous Nigerian benefactor has some American ancestors after all.