Nigerian scam (419)


THESE ARTICLE IS NOT MEANT TO TARNISH OR DIMISH THE IMAGE OF MY FATHERLAND CALLED NIGERIA BUT TO MAKE READERS BECOME AWARE OF SOME CERTAIN PERSON WHO TAKES JOY IN DEFRAUDING OTHERS AS A HOBBY. THE PENNY WORKED FOR IS WORTH THE CASH EARNED FRADULENTLY, COS IT WILL BE SPEND CARELESSLY. NIGERIA IS A GREAT LAND AND HER PEOPLE ARE BLESSED WITH EXCEPTIONAL SKILLS…I AM PROUD TO BE A NIGERIA. WHEN PEOPLE IN AMERICA SAY “GOD BLESS AMERICA,….I SIMPLY SHOUT “NIGERIA WE HAIL THEE!!!
Nigerian scams (also called Nigerian 419 scams), are a type of advance fee fraud and one of the most common types of confidence frauds in which the victim is defrauded for monetary gain.
There are many variations on this type of scam, including advance fee fraud, Nigerian Letter Fifo’s Fraud, Spanish Prisoner Scam, black money scam, or Detroit/Buffalo scam. The number “419” refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud. The scam has been used with fax and traditional mail, and is now used with the internet.
While the scam is not limited to Nigeria, the nation has become associated with this fraud and it has earned an unenviable reputation for being a center of email scam crimes. In fact, the top three nations of origin of these scams are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria (in that order). Other nations known to have a high incidence of advance fee fraud include Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Spain.
The Nigerian 419 scam is a form of advance fee fraud similar to the Spanish Prisoner scam dating back to the late 19th century. In that con, businessmen were contacted by an individual allegedly trying to smuggle someone connected to a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain. In exchange for assistance, the scammer promised to share money with the victim in exchange for a small amount of money to bribe prison guards. One variant of the scam may date back to the 18th or 19th centuries, as a very similar letter, entitled, “The Letter From Jerusalem” is seen in the memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq, a former French criminal and private investigator. Another variant of the scam, dating back to circa 1830, appears very similar to what is passed via email today: “‘Sir, you will be doubtlessly be astonished to be receiving a letter from a person unknown to you, who is about to ask a favour from you . . .’ and goes on to talk of a casket containing 16,000 francs in gold and the diamonds of a late marchioness.”
The modern 419 scam became popular during the 1980s during the hyper-corrupt “Second Republic” governed by President Shehu Shagari. There are many variants of the letters sent. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman’s husband and inquired about his health and a long, unexpected silence. It then asked what to do with profits from a $24.6 million investment, and ended with a telephone number. Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said that he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He said that he wanted to transfer $20 million to the recipient’s bank account – money that was budgeted but never spent. In exchange for transferring the funds out of Nigeria, the recipient would get to keep 30% of the total. To get the process started, the scammer asked for a few sheets of the company’s letterhead, bank account numbers, and other personal information. Yet other variants have involved mention of a Nigerian Prince or other member of a royal family seeking to transfer large sums of money out of the country.
The spread of e-mail and email harvesting software significantly lowered the cost of sending scam letters by using the Internet. While Nigeria is most often the nation referred to in these scams, they may be originated in other nations as well. For example, in 2006, 61% of Internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, while 16% were traced to the United Kingdom and 6% to locations in Nigeria. Other nations known to have a high incidence of advance fee fraud include Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Spain.
One reason why Nigeria may have been singled out is because of the comical, almost ludicrous nature of the promise of West African riches from a Nigerian Prince. According to Cormac Herley, a researcher for Microsoft, “By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select.” Nevertheless, Nigeria has earned a reputation as being at the epicenter of email scammers, and the number, “419”, refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: “Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating”) dealing with fraud. In Nigeria, young men would use computers in internet cafes to send mass emails promising potential victims for riches or romance, and to trawl for replies. They refer to their targets as maghas – scammer slang that developed from a Yoruba word meaning “fool”. Many also have accomplices in the United States and abroad that move in to finish the deal once the initial contact has been made.
In recent years, much effort has been done, by both governments and individuals, to combat the scammers involved in advanced fee fraud and 419 scams. In 2004, the Nigerian government formed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to combat economic and financial crimes, such as advanced fee fraud.[22] In 2009, Nigeria’s EFCC announced that they have adopted smart technology developed by Microsoft to track down fraudulent emails. They hoped to have the service, dubbed “Eagle Claw”, to be running at full capacity to warn a quarter of a million potential victims. Many individuals will also participate in a practice known as scam baiting, in which they pose as potential targets and engage the scammers in much dialogue so as to waste their time and decrease the time they have available for real victims. Details on the practice of scam baiting, and ideas, are chronicled on a website, 419eater.com, launched in 2003 by Michael Berry. One particularly notable case of scam baiting involved an American who identified himself to a Nigerian scammer as James T. Kirk. When the scammer – who apparently never heard of the television series, asked for his passport details, he sent a copy of a fake passport with a photo of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, hoping that the scammer would attempt to use it and get arrested.
Implementation
This scam usually begins with a letter or email[8] purportedly sent to a selected recipient but actually sent to many, making an offer that would result in a large payoff for the victim. The email’s subject line often says something like “From the desk of barrister [Name]”, “Your assistance is needed”, and so on. The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it. Such people, who may be real but impersonated people or fictitious characters played by the con artist, could include, for example, the wife or son of a deposed African or Indonesian leader or dictator who has amassed a stolen fortune, or a bank employee who knows of a terminally ill wealthy person with no relatives or a wealthy foreigner who deposited money in the bank just before dying in a plane crash (leaving no will or known next of kin), a US soldier who has stumbled upon a hidden cache of gold in Iraq, a business being audited by the government, a disgruntled worker or corrupt government official who has embezzled funds, a refugee, and similar characters. The money could be in the form of gold bullion, gold dust, money in a bank account, blood diamonds, a series of checks or bank drafts, and so forth. The sums involved are usually in the millions of dollars, and the investor is promised a large share, typically ten to forty percent, in return for assisting the fraudster to retrieve the money. Although the vast majority of recipients do not respond to these emails, a very small percentage do, enough to make the fraud worthwhile, as many millions of messages can be sent. Sums of money which are substantial, but very much smaller than the promised profits, are said to be required in advance for bribes, fees, etc. —- this is the money being stolen from the victim, who thinks he or she is investing to make a huge profit.
Many operations are professionally organized in Nigeria, with offices, working fax numbers, and often contacts at government offices. The victim who attempts to research the background of the offer often finds that all pieces fit together. Such scammers can often lure wealthy investors, investment groups, or other business entities into scams resulting in multi-million dollar losses. Some scammers are part of less organized gangs or are operating independently; such scammers have reduced access to the above connections, and thus have little success with wealthier investors or business entities attempting to research them, but are still convincing to middle-class individuals and small businesses, and can bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from such victims.
If the victim agrees to the deal, the other side often sends one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals. 419 scammers often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the Internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves. Often a photograph used by a scammer is not a picture of any person involved in the scheme. Multiple “people” involved in schemes are fictitious; the author of the “West African Advance Fee Scams” article posted on the website of the Embassy of the United States in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire believes that in many cases one person controls many fictitious personas used in scams.
A scammer introduces a delay or monetary hurdle that prevents the deal from occurring as planned, such as “To transmit the money, we need to bribe a bank official. Could you help us with a loan?” or “For you to be a party to the transaction, you must have holdings at a Nigerian bank of $100,000 or more” or similar. More delays and additional costs are added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive, convincing the victim that the money the victim is currently paying is covered several times over by the payoff. Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian side, to pay certain fees, had to sell belongings and borrow money on a house, or by pointing out the different salary scale and living conditions in Africa, compared to the West. Much of the time, however, the needed psychological pressure is self-applied; once the victims have put money in toward the payoff, they feel they have a vested interest in seeing the “deal” through. Some victims believe that they can cheat the con artist. This idea is often encouraged by the fraudsters who write in a clumsy and uneducated style which presents the fraudsters as naive and easily cheated by a sophisticated Westerner.
The essential fact in all advance-fee fraud operations is that the promised money transfer never happens—because the money does not exist. The perpetrators rely on the fact that, by the time the victim realizes this (often only after being confronted by a third party who has noticed the transactions or conversation and recognized the scam), the victim may have sent thousands of dollars of their own money, and sometimes thousands or millions more that has been borrowed or stolen, to the scammer via an untraceable and/or irreversible means such as wire transfer.
In extreme cases the victim may not realize that he or she has been defrauded. A version of the scam is for the thief to claim to have contacts to facilitate legitimate business loans; the victim here is not persuaded that he is doing anything illegal. The fraudster meets the victim, and must be able to act the part of a well-connected and experienced loan broker. He asks for payment in advance, which is normal for large loans. Then the loan gradually falls through in a plausible way, and the victim may end up being defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars or pounds, thinking only that the deal simply failed. These frauds may go unreported, either because the victim does not realize he has been cheated, or due to reluctance to admit the facts. Because of “non-disclosure clauses” which may have been included in the fraudulent contract, reporting of the scam may be delayed until the victim becomes certain he has been cheated.
The spam emails perpetrating these scams are often sent from Internet cafés equipped with satellite Internet. Recipient addresses and email content are copied and pasted into a webmail interface using a standalone storage medium, such as a memory card. Many areas of Lagos, such as Festac, contain many cyber cafés that serve scammers; many cyber cafés seal their doors during afterhours, such as from 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM, so that scammers inside may work without fear of discovery.
Nigeria also contains many businesses that provide false documents used in scams; after a scam involving a forged signature of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in summer 2005, Nigerian authorities raided a market in the Oluwole section of Lagos. The police seized thousands of Nigerian and non-Nigerian passports, 10,000 blank British Airways boarding passes, 10,000 United States money orders, customs documents, false university certificates, 500 printing plates, and 500 computers.
During the courses of many schemes, scammers ask victims to supply bank account information. Usually this is a “test” devised by the scammer to gauge the victim’s gullibility. Scammers often request that payments be made using a wire transfer service like Western Union and Moneygram. The reason given by the scammer usually relates to the speed at which the payment can be received and processed, allowing quick release of the supposed payoff. The real reason is that wire transfers and similar methods of payment are irreversible, untraceable and, because identification beyond knowledge of the details of the transaction is often not required, completely anonymous.
Telephone numbers used by scammers tend to come from mobile phones. In Côte d’Ivoire a scammer may purchase an inexpensive mobile phone and a pre-paid SIM card without submitting subscriber information. If the scammers believe they are being traced, they discard their mobile phones and purchase new ones.
The “success rate” of the scammers is also hard to gauge, since many are operating illegally and not keeping track of specific numbers. One individual estimated that he sent 500 emails per day and received about seven replies, citing that when he received a reply, he was 70 percent certain that he would get the money. If tens of thousands of emails are sent every day by thousands of individuals, it doesn’t take a very high success rate to be worthwhile.
Fake cheques
Fraudulent cheques and money orders are key elements in many advance-fee scams, such as auction/classified listing overpayment, lottery scams, inheritance scams, etc., and can be used in almost any scam when a “payment” to the victim is required to gain, regain or further solidify the victim’s trust and confidence in the validity of the scheme.
The use of cheques in a scam hinges on a US law (and common practice in other countries) concerning cheques: when an account holder presents a cheque for deposit or to cash, the bank must (or in other countries, usually) make the funds available to the account holder within 1–5 business days, regardless of how long it actually takes for the cheque to clear and funds to be transferred from the issuing bank. The cheques clearing process normally takes 7–10 days and can in fact take up to a month when dealing with foreign banks. The time between the funds appearing as available to the account holder and the cheque clearing is known as the “float”, during which time the bank could technically be said to have floated a loan to the account holder to be covered with the funds from the bank clearing the cheque.
The cheque given to the victim is typically counterfeit but drawn on a real account with real funds in it. With a piece of software like QuickBooks and/or pre-printed blank cheque stock, using the correct banking information, the scammer can easily print a cheque that is absolutely genuine-looking, passes all counterfeit tests, and may even clear the paying account if the account information is accurate and the funds are available. However, whether it clears or not, it eventually becomes apparent either to the bank or the account holder that the cheque is a forgery. This can be as little as three days after the funds are available if the bank supposedly covering the cheque discovers the cheque information is invalid, or it could take months for a business or individual to notice the fraudulent draft on their account. It has been suggested that in some cases the cheque is genuine — however the fraudster has a friend (or bribes an official) at the paying bank to claim it is a fake weeks or even months later when the physical cheque arrives back at the paying bank.
Regardless of the amount of time involved, once the cashing bank is alerted that the cheque is fraudulent, the transaction is reversed and the money removed from the victim’s account. In many cases, this puts victims in debt to their banks as the victim has usually sent a large portion of the cheque by some non-reversible ‘wire transfer’ means (typically Western Union) to the scammer and, since more uncollected funds have been sent than funds otherwise present in the victim’s account, an overdraft results.

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