What is Nigerian Email Fraud?
Nigerian email fraud is as easy to detect as it is difficult to say. The term refers to any email fraud of a similar variety — the source is not always Nigeria. The name comes from an early wave of just such email fraud items from Nigeria, or claiming to be from Nigeria.
What Other Countries Perpetrate Nigerian Email Fraud?
An email from a person in any country promising a big return for a small investment of money is probably fraudulent. There are big Nigerian email fraud schemes in countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Kenya, Senegal, Zaire, the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, and Sierra Leone — though now even big “white” countries like England or the US have become big sources of advance fee fraud.
Also, since Nigerian email fraud has become well-known, Nigerian scammers will simply lie about their country of origin.
What Does Nigerian Email Fraud Look Like?
This is how Nigerian email fraud works — you get an email from someone claiming to be a lawyer, a relative of a deposed King or President, a wife or mother in distress, etc. This email asks you for your help — look for really bad spelling and grammar, these seem to be characteristic of pieces of Nigerian Email Fraud.
Whoever is claiming to be the sender of this email also claims to have some ridiculous stockpile of cash frozen in a bank or other financial institution — usually in the millions of dollars. The email will explain how this person is unable to “get the money out of the country” and provide some sketchy B-movie explanation of why this is the case. Now comes the scary part — if only you would assist them they are willing to give you a portion of the money for your favor. All they need is your kind heart and your bank account information.
What Is Really Going On In Nigerian Email Hoaxes?
What you’re participating in when you play along with Nigerian email fraud is “advance fee” fraud, also some aspects of identity theft.
Another name for the Nigerian email scam is “419” fraud — the number of the Nigerian criminal code that makes this behavior illegal. In Nigeria, 419 fraud is basically unenforced, meaning the perpetrators get away with this activity with no possible penalty.
The perpetrators send out thousands of these emails, in hopes that some unthinking person will reply with bank details. Of course, more requests for money are made, with promise after promise that the money will be delivered. This buildup of problems is characteristic of 419 Fraud — if you would just send more and more money to pay off “bank fees” or cash to bribe bank officials, you’d have your money even sooner. This is called the “advanced fee” — the amount of money required to earn a big payback. You should realize by now that you’ll never get a penny in return for this money.
Another difficulty in identifying 419 fraud is that the “advance fees” seem really small compared to the amount of money originally involved. What’s about $30 when you’ve got millions on the line? If someone in Nigeria (or the Ukraine, or anywhere else in the world) can get $100 or $200 from some unsuspecting shmo (at no cost to them) of course they’ll do it.
How Bad Does 419 Fraud Get?
Some people have been cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through advance fee fraud. These are usually people who are unaware of the Nigerian e-mail fraud / advance fee fraud schemes, are new to email or the Internet, or are particularly gullible when it comes to money. The problem is that the governments of the countries these perpetrators come from have little time or resource to do anything about the problem, and even if a fraud scam is found out, it is usually impossible to prosecute them or bring them to justice.
How Do Nigerian Email Fraud Scams Find Me?
You get “spam email” all the time, right? Email from people you didn’t request it from? 419 fraud uses the same system to “find” you in order to defraud you.
These spammers and fraud artists create long lists of email addresses after gathering them from websites, comment forms, or even buying the email addresses from other web businesses. Some Nigerian email fraud scams use random email names to “guess” at a target. Most people who are running these 419 scams buy spam mailing lists or develop their own — they don’t target you for any particular reason.
Example of Nigerian Email Fraud
This is taken from an actual piece of Nigerian email fraud, as posted to a fraud alert website —
“I am Mark Kamara the only son of late former Director of finance, Chief Vincent R. Kamara of Sierra-Leone diamond and mining corporation. I must confess my agitation is real, and my words are the bond in this proposition.
My late father diverted this fund acquired from the and over influencing of price of sales/purchasing of raws materials., now he has gone is deposited the money with a BANK IN ABIDJAN BY FIXED DEPOSIT FORM #78655, where I am residing under political asylum with my younger sister Juliet who is only 7 years old.
In case you are not heard, The present government of Sierra Leone has revoked the passport of all officers who served under the former regime and now ask countries to expel such person at the same time, freeze of their money accounts and confiscate the assets of, it is on this note that I am contacting you, all I needed from you is to furnish me with your bank particulars.”
The best way to avoid being taken in by Nigerian email fraud is to use a good email server with a strong spam filter. Beyond that — never provide your bank information to a stranger. You wouldn’t give that info out to a stranger on the street . . . so why do it to a stranger over the Internet? Use your common sense when sending money online and you can avoid 419 fraud.