Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What are Nigerian aka 411 Scams?

Nigerian scams with their many variants, also known as 419 scams, are a worldwide mult-billion dollar industry originally built around offering a mark an opportunity to receive a percentage of a stolen or hidden account in return for using the mark's name and bank account to receive the funds. At some point in the process, the scammer asks the mark to pay for bribes, filing fees, advance fee or other semi reasonable sounding payment, small in relative terms of the purported monies available, and absconds with the amounts.

From the 419 Coalition's website:

"A Five Billion US$ (as of 1996, much more now) worldwide Scam which has run since the early 1980's under Successive Governments of Nigeria. It is also referred to as "Advance Fee Fraud", "419 Fraud" (Four-One-Nine) after a formerly relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria, and "The Nigerian Connection" (mostly in Europe). However, it is usually called plain old "419" even by the Nigerians themselves. In brief, 419 is a sub-classification of Advance Fee Fraud crime in which the perpetrators are West Africans, primarily Nigerians, operating globally from Nigeria and elsewhere. "

"The Scam operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal by normal means. Common variations on the Scam include "overinvoiced" or "double invoiced" oil or other supply and service contracts where your Bad Guys want to get the overage out of Nigeria (Classic 419); crude oil and other commodity deals (a form of Goods and Services 419); a "bequest" left you in a will (Will Scam 419); "money cleaning" where your Bad Guy has a lot of currency that needs to be "chemically cleaned" before it can be used and he needs the cost of the chemicals (Black Currency 419) ; "spoof banks" where there is supposedly money in your name already on deposit; "paying" for a purchase with a check larger than the amount required and asking for change to be advanced (cashier's check and money order 419); fake lottery 419; chat room and romance 419 (usually coupled with one of the other forms of 419); employment 419 (including secret shopper 419) ; and ordering items and commodities off "trading" and "auction" sites on the web and then cheating the seller. The variations of Advance Fee Fraud (419) are very creative and virtually endless, so do not consider the above as an all-inclusive list!

At some point, the victim is asked to pay up front an Advance Fee of some sort, be it an "Advance Fee", "Transfer Tax", "Performance Bond", or to extend credit, grant COD privileges, send back "change" on an overage cashier's check or money order, whatever. If the victim pays the Fee, there are often many "Complications" which require still more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both. If the victim extends credit on a given transaction etc. he may also pay such fees ("nerfund" etc.), and also stiffed for the Goods or Service with NO Effective Recourse.

The Nigerian Scam is, according to published reports, the Third to Fifth largest industry in Nigeria. It is the 419 Coalition view that, in effect, the elites from which successive Governments of Nigeria have been drawn ARE the Scammers - therefore, victims have little recourse in this matter. Monies stolen by 419 operations are almost Never Recovered from Nigeria. "

Other resources:

419 Coalition website
Flow Chart of a Classic 419 Fraud
Federal Trade Commission site
NigerianScams.org

Please feel free to post the text of Nigerian Scam emails in comments on this site.