Internet Traps - The Nigerian Scam

We have discussed Tips and Tricks in last few issues. Let us examine the dark side of Internet scams in this issue.

What happens if someone offers you US Dollar 5 million free ? All you need to do is to forward your bank details to a civil servant or descendant of a presidential/royal family so that a huge unaccounted sum lying in govt exchequer / bank vault can be deposited in your bank account. You get a cut of 5 million dollars just for allowing these guys to make use of your bank account.

It sounds crazy and perhaps 99% people, when presented with the offer, will laugh away or remark �hey ! one more trickster�. However, there is 1% who doesn�t think so. So, watch out !

What is Nigerian Scam ?

A Five Billion US$ (as of 1996, much more now) worldwide Scam which has run since the early 1980's under successive governments of Nigeria. It is also referred to as "Advance Fee Fraud", "419 Fraud" (Four-One-Nine) after the relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria, and "The Nigerian Connection" (mostly in Europe). However, it is usually called plain old "419" even by the Nigerians themselves. The Nigerian Scam is, according to published reports, the third to fifth largest industry in Nigeria.

How Does the Scam Operate ?

The beginning of the scam is an e-mail, fax or letter. The target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter from Nigeria containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR may receive a legal and legitimate business proposal by normal means. Common variations of the scam include "over invoiced" or "double invoiced" oil or other supply and service contracts where the Nigerian operators want to get the overage out of Nigeria; crude oil and other commodity deals; a "bequest" left in a will etc ..the variations are very creative and virtually endless. You will be asked to forward your bank details and office stationery to the contact in Nigeria for preparing the legal documents for money transfer.

Sweeten the Deal... Slowly

Once the gullible falls for the story, correspondence starts and an impression is created that everything is in order and the target is about to pocket his lifetime deal. The goal of the scam artist is to delude the victim into thinking that he or she has been singled out to participate in a very lucrative although questionable -- arrangement. The intended victim is reassured of the authenticity of the arrangement by forged or false documents bearing apparently official Nigerian government letterhead, seals, as well as false letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. The scam artist may even establish the credibility of his contacts, and thereby his influence, by arranging a meeting between the victim and "government officials" in real or fake government offices.

The Screw Tightens !

Then suddenly the victim is asked to pay up front an Advance Fee of some sort, be it an "Advance Fee", "Transfer Tax", "Performance Bond", or to extend credit, grant COD privileges, whatever. If the victim pays the Fee, there are many "Complications" which require still more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both. If the victim extends credit etc. he may also pay such fees ("nerfund" etc.), and then he is stiffed with NO Effective Recourse.

Finance risk extends to Life Risk

If it goes still further and they get you over to Nigeria (or wherever), you are in serious danger that may even be fatal. Many Americans and Europeans are said to have �disappeared� once in Nigeria. Victims are almost always requested to travel to Nigeria or a border country to complete a transaction. Victims are often told that a visa will not be necessary to enter the country. The Nigerian scam artists may then bribe airport officials to pass the victims through Immigration and Customs. Because it is a serious offense in Nigeria to enter without a valid visa, the victim's illegal entry may be used by the scam artists as leverage to coerce the victims into releasing funds. Violence and threats of physical harm may be employed to further pressure victims. In June of 1995, an American was murdered in Lagos, Nigeria, while pursuing a 4-1-9 scam, and numerous other foreign nationals have been reported as missing.


Avoid these scams like the plague! Don't let promises of large amounts impair your judgment. If you are already a victim or looking for legal remedies, check the websites listed below. It contains information on whom to contact for reporting the scam and lots more.

More Information

Nigeria - The 419 Coalition - dedicated to exposing a worldwide scam which has run for the last ten years under successive governments of Nigeria.

Scam o Rama: featuring The Lads From Lagos

A free award winning e-zine: Internet ScamBusters Internet ScamBusters is an award winning free electronic newsletter (e-zine) to help people protect themselves from Internet scams, misinformation...

Related Links:

Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol II, Issue 5; June 27' 2001

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

� All Rights Reserved. Limited permission is granted to publish this article in a web-site or printed in a journal/ newspaper/ magazine provided the publisher takes prior permission from author, do not make any change in the article (i.e. keep it exactly same as displayed above) and cite the Source of this article as The Great Indian Bazaar with a link to this page.