Nigerian Money Scam

The Nigerian Money Scam is also known as the Advance fee fraud, the
Nigerian money transfer fraud, Nigerian scam or 419 scam after the relevant
section of the Nigerian Criminal Code [1] that it violates, is a fraudulent
scheme to extract money from investors living in relatively richer countries in
Europe, Australia, or North America.

How it Works

The 'investors' are contacted usually via email, typically with an offer of the
type "A rich person from the needy country needs to discreetly move money
abroad, would it be possible to use your account?". The sums involved are
usually in the millions of dollars, and the investor is promised a large
percentage, often forty percent. The proposed deal is often presented as a
(harmless) white-collar crime, in order to dissuade participants from later
contacting the authorities.

The operation is professionally organized in Nigeria, with offices, working
fax numbers, and often contacts at government offices. The investor who
attempts to research the background of the offer will usually find that all
pieces fit perfectly together.

If they then agree to the deal, the other side will first send several documents
bearing official government stamps, seals etc., and then introduce delays,
such as "in order to transmit the money, we need to bribe a bank official.
Could you help us with a loan?" or "In order for you to be allowed to be a
party to the transaction, you need to have holdings at a Nigerian bank of
$100,000 or more" or similar. More delays and more additional costs are
added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive.

Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian
side, in order to pay certain fees, had to sell all belongings and borrow
money on their house.

In rare cases, victims are invited to Nigeria and get to meet real or fake
government officials. Some victims that travel are instead held for ransom. In
some cases they are smuggled into the country without a visa and then
threatened into giving up more money, as the penalties for being in Nigeria
without a visa are especially severe. In the most extreme cases the victim is
even murdered.

Reality Check

In any case, the promised money transfer never happens, of course. The
money or gold does not exist. Victims are often buried in debt since they
liquidated so much of their assets and took out huge loans to cover the
'advanced fee'. Victims may even commit suicide.

The country involved is not always Nigeria. Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa
and other West African states are sometimes seen. Occasionally the scam
operates from a non-African country such as the Netherlands (Amsterdam),
the United Kingdom (London), Spain (Madrid) or Canada (Toronto). This
number is on the rise.
Copyright 2005
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