The Nigerian 419 advance fee scam, known simply as 419
(four-one-nine) is named after section 419 of the Nigerian penal
code. Although mostly Nigerian in origin, it is quite common to
find many of these scams coming from many other countries, both
within and outside Africa. Spain and Netherlands have more than
their share of 419 scammers, probably due to the lack of political
will to go after them. Canada has relatively few of these scammers
but they operate from there with impunity because of the Canadian
justice system's reluctance to procecute any kind of criminal.
There are a great many variations of
the internet scam. In addition, these scammers are coming up with
new and alternative ways to get something from the unsuspecting
Below are some of the more popular scams you might come across
on the internet.
This is the traditional 419 scam. It is the most recognized type
of 419 scam and is also the most popular.
Usually, you are contacted via e-mail, fax or regular snail mail
by someone you don't know offering a portion of a large amount of
money (usually 10%-50%) in exchange for your assitance (often the
temporary use of your bank account) in gettng the money out of its
present location and into "your country". Sometimes it's a wealthy
widow or businessman who claims to be dying and wants you to make
certain that their money is given to charity.
Of course, nothing is that simple. There are always made-up fees
that have to be paid in advance before the money (which doesn't
exist in the first place) can be released. Examples
This one almost always arrives by e-mail and is becoming
Basically, you are contacted by someone who claims to represent
a lottery telling you that you've won a large amount of money (in
dollars, euros, pounds, or whatever). Like the traditional scam,
there is no prize money but there are always silly fees to be paid
before you can receive your winnngs.
Many of the lottery names are made up. The Microsoft Word
Lottery, The Yahoo Messenger Lottery, and The Windows Vista Lottery
are just a few of the lotteries that the scammers invent but, just
as often, they claim to be from real lotteries, providing web links
to "back" up their story.
One thing to always keep in mind is that no one gets notified
via e-mail by a real lottery that they've won and no one wins a
lottery for which they've never bought a ticket. Examples
Usually arrives via e-mail, this type of scam is very successful
and would be far more popular if the scammers could afford the cost
of good-quality fake checks. The prospective employer could be just
about anyone real or fictitious. Some very common ones used by the
scammers are Sino Steel and Susan's Art World. Sometimes the
scammer claims to be an African model who had had modeling jobs for
which she had been paid with checks drawn on an American or
European based bank. In any scenario, the person/firm has trouble
cashing these checks and is ostensibly looking for someone to cash
them in exchange for a certain percentage.
The way the scam works is that the scammer offers you a job as a
"company representative" or something similar, or, the scammer
tells you that he/she has trouble cashing checks from the US/Canada
and/or Europe. Your job is to cash the checks for him/her in
exchange for a percentage (usually 5%-10%) of the value of the
These checks are always either complete forgeries or stolen
checks which have been altered. In either case, the check is
worthless. You are asked by the scammer to cash the check(s), keep
your alloted percentage for yourself and wire the remainder back to
the scammer immediately.
When your bank eventually finds out that the check you
cashed/deposited is worthless, you will be held responsible for
covering the value of the check.
Another popular Job Offer Scam advertises some sort of
attractive service job in a foreign country, usually in a hotel or
on a cruise ship. instead of cashing fake checks, the victim (job
applicant) is asked to send money to pay for their visas, etc.
For some reason, these e-mails seem to come primarily from Ghana
and Cote d'Ivoire They always follow a similar theme. The scammer
contacts you offering diamonds, gold bullion, or gold dust for
sale. Of course, he wants payment before shipping the goods (which
don't exist). Examples
This one has much in common with the Job Offer Scam (above) but
the premise is entirely different.
The potential victim of this type of scam is often someone who
has offered something for sale or rent, often on eBay or CraigsList. Sometimes the victim
will get a response by telephone from someone who has seen an
advertisement in the classified ad secion of a newspaper.
In the case of someone who has an item for sale, the scammer
will express a desire to purchase the item for the asking price (or
more) and offers to pay for the item by check, the amount of which
far exceeds the purchase price of the item. Often the victim has an
apartment, flat, or house for rent and the scammer wants to pay the
security deposit and/or "1st and last month's rent" via this
method. The scammer then requests that the seller wire the
difference back via Western Union or Moneygram.
As you would expect, the check(s) they send are worthless.
There are many variations of this type of scam but they all have
one thing in common: The scammer always tries to develop a very
personal and trusting long-term relationship with the victim over
the internet. This relationship is often, but not always romantic.
They like to use instant messaging to communicate.
Often the scammers will ask their victims to cash (fake) checks
In one variation, the scammer will use the victim's address as a
drop for expensive items purchased online with stolen credit card
numbers. These items will start showing up at the victim's home.
The scammer will then ask that the victim ship these items to
The scammers in this type of scam are very patient. They have
been known to cultivate their relationship with their victim over a
long period of time, sometimes more than a year.
You can usually meet these scammers at social websites.
MySpace.com and most dating websites are overflowing with these
Websites offerng free or inexpensive advertising have long been
havens for loan scammers. E-mail is also becomng a popular medium
for these scammers to find victms.
The scam is a classic advance fee fraud. The victim is always
approved for a loan with these fake lenders but, as you would
expect, there are various "fees" which must be paid before the
victim is to receive any money.
There's a dangerous twist with this kind of scam. The fake
lender will ask the victim for all sorts of personal information
that would normally be required by a lending institution. Thus, the
victim of this scam can lose money and become a prime
candidate for identity theft. Examples
Most often used by scammers following a tragic disaster but used
other times as well. The scammers contact their victims by phone
and/or e-mail posing as a charity collecting relief money. These
scams were especially popular in the aftermath of The Indian Ocean
Tsunami (2004), the London 7/7 terrorist attacks (2005), and
Hurricane Katrina (2005).
Occasionally, these scammers make it clear that they are simply
bumming money for themselves. Examples