The Internet is full of bad people, including scammers and con artists — most notably Nigerian scam con artists. Nigerian scam has penetrated not only your bulk mails, but also social networking and online dating sites. The Nigerian scam which originated from Nigeria has been ongoing since 1980 and the modus operandi was replicated not only by Africans but also in many other locations in Africa, Philippines, Malaysia, Russia, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Nigerian scam, which is now widely known as Nigerian 4-1-9 fraud based from the section of the Nigerian penal code on fraud schemes, actually originated in the early 1980s when the oil-based economy of Nigeria went down. To lure businessmen interested in the Nigerian oil, some smart university students thought of sending letters, fax or telefax to rich companies in the West. As technology progressed through the use of Internet, emails and access to email harvesting software made it easier to send scam letters to more companies and private individuals as well.
A Crime of Persuasion
The Nigerian scam is also known as Advance Fee Scheme. It is a strategy to persuade the target to send sums of money in exchange for a significantly bigger gain, usually about 10-30% of a million dollar deal. The scam has spread worldwide and usually comes as an unsolicited letter from an employee of Nigerian Central Bank or from the Nigerian government. When the scammer and the victim agree on a deal, the scammer typically request that the payment (advance fee) be made thru Western Union — this is the fastest way to send and receive money and be untraceable to future investigation. Sooner or later, the target will find out that he was scammed.
How does the Nigerian scam work? The scammer uses the human weakness to want more money. In short, the greed for more money makes any one a target to the Nigerian scammers.
The Nigerian scam that is most common is through email. The scammer sends a letter that usually goes to your bulk mail. However there have been mails of this type that get through your inbox. The sender’s subject line often says something like “From the desk of Barrister ______”, or “Your assistance is needed” . The purpose is to attract the target to agree on a transaction about a large amount of money that is needed to be out in Nigeria or London banks. Sometimes, it’s a bequest left in will or a partnership that needs a next of kin to receive it.
To see sample Nigerian scam email letter, please check out the Nigerian Scam Letters page.
The newest approach in Nigerian scam is the romance scam. The con artist joins an online dating service or a social networking site using pictures of an attractive person that’s not his. Through constant communication via Instant Messaging, the scammer gains the fondness, confidence and love of the other person. He or she may claim interest in meeting or in building serious relationship. Some con artist would inform the other of a business venture somewhere in Nigeria or in United Kingdom and then will ask for cash to book a plane, hotel room or other expenses.
In some cases, romance scammers are real persons whom you can talk with on the phone or via live chats. When the target’s trust is gained , they may plan to meet or even propose something serious as marriage but then the con artist will claim being trapped in a foreign country and needed money as a way to bribe the corrupt immigration officials, and escape foreign immigration laws. Many other convincing alibis can be given such as to pay for immediate surgery or hospitalization. Whatever reasons they give, the purpose is to appeal to the target’s compassion, and the con artists are good at blackmailing about love and sweet promises.
Other Nigerian scams or Advance Fee Schemes are in the form of purchasing goods and services such as cars or jewelry, vehicle matching service scams, check encashment, lottery scam, charity scams, fraud recovery scams, babysitting and au-pair scams, pet or exotic pet scams, classified ads or Craigslist, fake job offer, rental scams, and attorney collection scams.
Perhaps because greed for money is a human nature, a lot of those scammed by the Nigerian 419 have lost millions of US dollars and Euros to the con artists. They were real people who were persuaded and victimized by Nigerian scammers. After the con artists have gained the targets’ confidence, they give personal information that were used against them and stripped them of their bank accounts. The United States Secret Service has been investigating monetary loss over $50,000 since 1995 but there were many others who were scammed for lesser amounts too.
Sad to say those who were swindled a large amount of money by these scammers never got their money back. Those who were brave to run after the scammers and go to Nigeria themselves were either kidnapped for ransom or missing. A few missing persons were later on found murdered. Others because of the great loss of money committed suicide or lost their minds. Those who borrowed money while looking forward to a huge payback turned into criminals themselves and jailed for embezzlement of funds, taking money under false pretence or being guilty of fraud.
Don’t Even Think About It
The Nigerian 419 is a big time swindling operation that’s impossible to rid of. Nigerian scam is the top three among Nigeria’s industry. There may be some truth the claims that a number of high positioned government officials are behind or part of this scheme. As mentioned above, the consequence is worth your life and money. These people can kill and harm anyone the moment you started to get involved. So don’t even think about it!
I have included a list of why questions here that you can answer easily and does not require more than a common sense. If you can give me an explanation to any one of these questions, then you are a prospective target to the Nigerian scammers:
- Why must you respond to a letter from an unknown individual?
- Why should you provide your personal information?
- Why should you pay up anything up front?
- Why should you extend credit for any reason, anyway?
- Why send money if their checks aren’t cleared yet?
- Why do you think of how much big money you can get if you didn’t work for it?
When you receive a 419 solicitation, just ignore it or delete it. In case of romance scam, don’t give too much information to any stranger online. It will only give them an idea about your work, income, or family background. If they ask you to send money, there’s no reason why you should trust your money and send them to an addressee in Nigeria especially through Western Union. If you think you can get a large amount money for free, then remember that nothing comes in this world for free; there’s always a catch somewhere.
A final word of advice, the world is full of bad people preying on other people’s vulnerability. Don’t let yourself become a Nigerian scam victim or any scam online.