What Is the Nigerian Letter Scam?
The Nigerian letter scam, also known as advance fee fraud or “419 fraud,” involves a sender pleading for assistance in completing an unauthorized money transfer. The most popular way is email, but other options include mail and fax as well. A bank employee, company executive, or self-declared government or military person is usually the author. They say they require access to a foreign account in order to send money out of Nigeria.
Depending on the target’s apparent gullibility, the sender may offer the receiver a commission of up to several million dollars in return. The con artists then demand money to cover part of the transfer’s expenses, including taxes, legal fees, and bribes to government authorities. If the con artists are successful in getting money, they will either vanish right away or attempt to collect more money by making up new transfer issues.
The Mechanism of a Nigerian Letter Scam
Because it was so common in Nigeria, especially during the 1990s, this particular fraud is sometimes called a Nigerian letter scam. This kind of scam is prohibited under Nigerian Criminal Code Section 419. However, this fraud is not only committed in Nigeria; it is also carried out by other organizations in other nations.
The roots of this deception are hotly contested; some claim they date back hundreds of years to earlier confidence tricks like the Spanish Prisoner hoax, while others claim they began in Nigeria in the 1970s.
Initially, the Nigerian letter scam was carried out through the phone, fax, and regular mail. The widespread use of email gave the Nigeran scam a new path. The mention of a U.S. dollar account in a foreign nation, the assurance of significant reward for little work, typographical issues, grammatical faults, and strange syntax are all red flags that a communication may be a hoax.
What Scammers Are Trying to Find
Nigerian letter fraudsters think that their offers of commissions would be alluring enough to persuade readers to take the chance of transferring thousands of dollars to an unknown recipient. The con artist may claim that the transfer is necessary because the government is attempting to freeze (or seize) their accounts, or else that the money is held captive by war, corruption, or political upheaval. The individual may claim they must get your bank account information immediately in order to transfer the funds for safekeeping.
Of course, keep in mind that anything that seems too good to be true generally is when it comes to this kind of request. Nigerian letter scams still thrive because it just takes a small percentage of victims—out of millions of attempts—to be duped for it to be profitable for the con artists.
How to Prevent the 419 Fraud or Nigerian Letter
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States advises the following measures to prevent this kind of fraud:
- Do not respond in any way if you get a letter or email from Nigeria (or any other nation) asking for your banking or personal details. Send the letter to the FBI office closest to you, the U.S. Secret Service, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Additionally, you may file a complaint using the FTC’s Complaint Assistant.
- Be wary of anyone claiming to be Nigerian or other foreign government representatives who beg for your assistance in transferring large quantities of money to foreign bank accounts.
- Never trust offers of large compensation in exchange for your participation.
- Always keep your account information secure..
- Encourage the individual you know who is communicating with a fraudster to get in touch with the FBI or U.S. Secret Service right away.
Even while many people are aware of these and other scams, keep in mind that it only takes a small number of unsuspecting victims for crooks to make their time worthwhile. If you know of someone who could be susceptible to fraud, such as your elderly parents, be careful to educate them on how scams operate and how to prevent falling victim to them.
The Nigerian Romance Scam: What Is It?
In a romance scam, a con artist creates a false online persona in an effort to win the trust and love of a victim. The con artist poses as a love interest in order to control and/or defraud the victim. The criminal may make preparations to propose marriage and meet in person, but nothing of the kind ever occurs. Eventually, the con artist will demand payment.
Nigeria is the second-most infamous nation in the world for romantic scams, behind the Philippines, according to a survey by the IT and cybersecurity firm TechShielder.
What Is a Scam of Advance Fees?
An advance fee scam occurs when a victim sends money to a con artist in exchange for a promise of receiving something more valuable, such a gift, contract, loan, or investment. Of course, even if the victim complies with the con artist’s requests, they will get little to nothing.
Because the victim is promised a share of a large quantity of money in return for supplying banking information and making upfront payments, the Nigerian letter scam is an example of an advance fee scam.
Do Nigerian letter scams have their roots there?
No, not always. Seventy one percent of the Nigerian letter scammers who could be located resided in the United States. The next largest percentage, at 8%, came from Nigeria.