Nigerian Email Scam: Definition, Origin, Types, Risks and Precautions

An advance fee fraud, also known as a Nigerian Email Scam or 419 fraud, is a type of scam in which the victim is convinced to advance money to a stranger. In all of these scams, the victim must expect a much larger sum of money to be returned. The victim, of course, never receives any of this money. Below we explain what this scam consists of, the existing types, the risks of falling into them and how to protect ourselves.

Nigerian Email Scam Definition

Nigerian email scams combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee plan in which a letter mailed or emailed from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share a percentage of millions of dollars that the perpetrator, a self-proclaimed government official, is trying to illegally transfer out of Nigeria.

The recipient is encouraged to send information to the originator, such as bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number listed in the letter or the return email address provided in the message.

The scheme is based on convincing a willing victim, who has demonstrated a “propensity for theft” by responding to the invitation, to send money to the letter writer in Nigeria in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.

The payment of taxes, bribes to government officials and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are withdrawn from Nigeria.

In reality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim ultimately ends up with only losses. Once the victim stops sending money, perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances.

While such an invitation strikes most law-abiding citizens as a ridiculous hoax, these schemes cause millions in losses every year. Some victims were lured to Nigeria, where they were jailed against their will and lost large sums of money.

The Nigerian government has no sympathy for the victims of these schemes, as the victim conspires to withdraw funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian penal code, hence the label “419 fraud”.

Origin of this Electronic Fraud

Nigerian scams involve someone abroad offering you a share of a large sum of money or a payment on the condition that you help them transfer money out of their country. While these scams originated in Nigeria, they are now coming from all over the world.

As early as the 17th century, an early version of this fraud was in use in Europe. Known as the prisoner fraud. The scam in that case consisted of a correspondence in which the criminal would claim to be a prisoner who knows where some buried treasure is.

The “prisoner” would ask for money to bribe the prison guards so that he could escape and get to the treasure. In exchange for that money, the “prisoner” promised to share the treasure with the target of the scam.

In reality, the “prisoner” was not in jail and was simply using the story as a way to get the money from the target.

This scam is also known as a “Nigerian Letter” because the large-scale use of 419 fraud first began in that country. In fact, Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal Code deals with obtaining property by false promises, which is exactly what advance fee fraud is all about.

Nigerian fraud became widespread during the 1990s, with thousands of people in Nigeria participating in hundreds of different fraud schemes, making fraud one of Nigeria’s largest sources of income from abroad. During the first decade of the new millennium, it spread to other African countries, including Ghana, Benin, Togo, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.

However, the scam is not limited to African nations. Countries as diverse as Spain, Russia, Malaysia, India, and the United States are also sites of major upfront fraud operations.

Nigerian card types

The scammer will contact you by email, letter, text, or through social media.

He will tell you an elaborate story about large amounts of his money trapped in banks during events such as civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news. Or they may tell you about a large inheritance that is “hard to access” due to government restrictions or taxes in their country.

The scammer will offer you a large sum of money to help them transfer their personal fortune out of the country.

Criminals use many tricks designed to lure even skeptical targets. For example, they will send out mass mailings over the Internet, but will make each letter appear to have been received by a single individual. They can provide working phone and fax numbers to the targets that demand them, and provide documents that appear to have authentic government seals.

These are the main types of Nigerian scams:

Nigerian Employment Email Scams

This scam targets people who have posted their resumes on job sites. The scammer sends a letter with a forged company logo.

The job offer usually indicates an exceptional salary and benefits, and requests that the victim needs a “work permit” to work in the country, and includes the address of a (false) “government official” to contact.

The “government official” then proceeds to rob the victim by extracting fees from the unsuspecting user for work permit and other fees.

Many legitimate companies work in a similar way, using this method as their main source of income. Some modeling and escort agencies tell applicants that they have a number of clients waiting, but that they require some kind of “registration fee” in advance, usually paid by an untraceable method, for example by Western Union transfer. Once the fee is paid, the applicant is informed that the customer has canceled and is not contacted again.

Nigerian Fake Job Offers Email Scam

The most sophisticated scams advertise jobs with real companies and offer lucrative salaries and conditions with scammers posing as recruiting agents.

A fake phone or online interview may take place and after a while the applicant is informed that the job is theirs. To secure the job, they are instructed to send money for their work visa or travel costs to the agent, a fake travel agent working on behalf of the scammer.

No matter what the variation, they always involve the job applicant sending them or their agent money, credit card or bank account details.

A new form of employment scam has emerged in which users receive a bogus job offer but are not asked to provide financial information. Instead, your personal information is harvested during the application process and then sold to third parties for profit, or used for identity theft.

Another form of employment scam is to make people receive a fake “interview” where they are informed of the benefits of the company. Attendees are then made to attend a conference where a scammer will use elaborate manipulation techniques to convince attendees to purchase products, similar to the catalog trade business model, as a hiring requirement.

Nigerian Cash Handling Email Scam

These scammers conduct Internet searches of various companies to obtain the names of hiring managers. They then advertise job openings on job search sites. The job seeker will apply for the position with a resume.

The person applying for the position will almost instantly receive a message from a common email account such as “Yahoo”, requesting credentials. Sometimes it will request that the victim have an “Instant Messaging” chat to get more information.

The scammer guarantees the job, usually through automated computer programs that have a certain algorithm, with “canned answers” in broken English.

The scammer sends the victim fraudulent deals, assuring them that they get to keep some of the funds. They will expect the victim to send the rest to various parties they specify, under the guise that they are legitimate business contacts.

Nigerian Lottery Email Scam

Lottery scam involves fake lottery winnings notices even though the intended victim has not played the lottery. The “winner” is usually asked to submit sensitive information such as name, residential address, occupation, lottery number, etc. In addition to collecting this information, the scammer then notifies the victim that releasing the funds requires a small fee. Once the victim submits the rate, the scammer makes up another rate.

The fake check also uses the technique described above. Fake or stolen checks, representing a partial payment of winnings, that are sent; then a fee less than the amount received is requested. The bank receiving the bad check eventually reclaims the funds from the victim.

Nigerian Online Sales and Rentals Email Scam

Many scams involve the purchase of goods and services through classified ads, especially on sites like Craigslist, eBay, or Gumtree. This usually involves the scammer contacting the seller of a particular good or service by phone or email expressing an interest in the item.

They will send a fake check for more than the asking price, asking the seller to send the difference to an alternate address, usually by money order or Western Union. A seller eager to sell a particular product may not wait for the check to clear, and by the time the bad check is returned, the transferred funds have already been lost.

Some scammers advertise fake academic conferences in exotic or international locations, with fake websites, scheduled agendas, and advertising experts in a particular field who will be presenting there. They offer to pay for the participants’ airfare, but not hotel accommodation. They will extract money from the victims when they try to book their accommodation in a non-existent hotel.

Nigerian Pet Email Scams

This is a variation of the online sales scam where high-value, scarce pets are advertised as bait on online advertising websites using little actual verification of the seller.

The pet can be advertised as for sale or for adoption. The mascot is usually advertised on online advertising pages complete with photos taken from various sources such as real ads, blogs, or wherever an image can be stolen.

When the potential victim contacts the scammer, the scammer responds by asking for details regarding the potential victim’s circumstances and location under the guise of ensuring the pet has a suitable home.

By determining the victim’s location, the scammer ensures that it is far enough away from the victim to not allow the buyer to physically see the pet. If the scammer is questioned, since the ad initially claimed a location, the scammer will allege employment circumstances that forced them to relocate. This forces a situation where all communication is via email, phone (usually untraceable numbers), and SMS.

When the victim decides to adopt or buy the pet, they must use a courier service that is actually part of the scam. If it is an adopted pet, the victim is usually expected to pay some fee such as insurance, food or shipping.

Payment is through moneyGram, Western Union, or the bank accounts of money mules where other victims have been lured into work by home scams.

Nigerian Love and Romance Email Scam

One of the variants is the romance scam. The scammer approaches the victim on an online dating service, instant messaging system, or social networking site. Claim an interest in the victim and post photos of an attractive person. Use this communication to gain trust, then ask for money.

The scammer may claim that they are interested in meeting the victim, but need cash to book a plane, buy a bus ticket, rent a hotel room, pay for personal travel costs such as gas or car rental, or to cover other expenses.

In other cases, they claim that they are stuck in a foreign country and need assistance to return, escape imprisonment by corrupt local officials, pay for medical expenses due to illness contracted abroad, etc.

The scammer may also use the trust gained from the romantic angle to introduce some variation of the original Nigerian Charter scheme, such as saying they need to get money or valuables out of the country and offering to share the wealth, making the request for help stop. leaving the country even more attractive to the victim.

Scams often involve meeting someone on an online matchmaking service. This initiates contact with your target and requests money for the transportation fee. They will usually ask that money be sent via money order or bank transfer due to the need to travel, or for medical or business costs.

Nigerian Mobile Tower Installation Fraud

A variant of advanced fee fraud popular in India is mobile tower installation fraud. The scammer uses classified internet websites and print media to attract the public to install cell towers on their property. It also creates fake websites to appear legitimate.

Victims are asked for money under the excuse of Government Service Tax, government authorization charges, bank charges, transportation charges, survey fee, etc.

Nigerian Emails and Data Protection

This Nigerian letter scam poses a danger to privacy and data protection as numerous personal details are requested from the victims. And that data is used to steal money or impersonate those victims.

In other cases, the data provided is sold to third parties who can use it for fraudulent purposes.

Therefore, through these scams, data protection regulations are violated, in addition to criminal law, since we are not adequately informed about the processing of our personal data and these data are processed without our express consent (the consent obtained is not valid since there has been a deception).

Risks of Falling for this Nigerian Email Scam

You receive a contact from a stranger asking you to ‘help’ someone in another country transfer money out of their country (eg Nigeria, Sierra Leone or Iraq).

The request includes a long and often sad story about why the owner can’t transfer the money. This usually involves some kind of conflict or inheritance and they may want to transfer the money directly to your account.

It offers you a financial reward, such as a share of the amount, for helping them access their “trapped” funds. The amount of money to be transferred, and the payment the scammer promises you if it helps, is usually very large.

They will claim that a bank, lawyer, government agency or other organization requires some fees to be paid before the money can be moved. The scammer will often ask you to make payments for the fee through a money transfer service.

If you have received any email of this type, be suspicious and do not provide any information or make any transfer.

Precautions to take if receive Nigerian Scam Emails

If you receive a letter or email that may be a Nigerian letter, follow these tips :

  • Never send money or provide credit card details, online account details, or copies of personal documents to people you don’t know or trust.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger who requires payment in advance by money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card, or electronic currency such as Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent in this way.
  • Do not agree to transfer money for another person. Money laundering is a criminal offence.
  • Seek independent advice from someone you know and trust when in doubt.
  • If someone claims to be from a particular organization, verify the contact’s identity by calling the relevant organization directly; find it through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact information that appears in the sent message.
  • Do an internet search using the names, contact details or the exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam; many scams can be identified this way.
  • If you think it’s a scam, don’t respond: scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions and get what they want.
  • Remember that there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Nigerian Scam Email Examples

Multiple examples of Nigerian scam emails exist.

During the War in Iraq, spam mailings were made containing Iraqi emails containing information about money stolen during military operations in that country. The authors of these emails generally used fictitious names. Although, sometimes, they used the real names of high-ranking Iraqi officials.

Sometimes among Nigerian emails, some masterpieces can be found. Thousands of these emails are distributed over the Internet, and it is the users themselves who send them to others as a sample of a funny text.

The clearest example of such a “masterpiece” is the exciting story of the Nigerian astronaut who 14 years ago was sent to the Soviet Soyuz space station and now the Russians refuse to bring him back to Earth, as it is too expensive. During all these years, his salary has been transferred to his bank account and now the relatives of the astronaut ask for help from users to use this astronomical sum of money to help the astronaut to return home. An attentive user will recognize the date of the letter’s first mailing: April 2004.

Known cases of Nigerian scams

A year ago, US authorities announced charges against 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a sweeping fraud and money laundering operation that generated millions of dollars from victims of Internet scam jobs.

The suspects used a variety of scams to allegedly target the elderly, people seeking romantic relationships, and small and large businesses to convince them to send money online.

At least $6 million in fraudulently obtained funds were transferred through a money laundering ring run by two Nigerians.

All of the defendants faced charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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