Beware of Nigerian Online Scams

Scam is an attempt by con pros to convince people to send money to them. Scam, especially the internet/online scam, is as common in Nigeria as it is in every part of the world.

The Nigerian scam or Advance Fee scam is a type of fraud and a form of a confidence trick. These scammers send mass emails to various individuals. Maybe you’re wondering how they got your email address or telephone number. These are cons and are very smart people. So all you need to do is get smarter when you receive such emails or SMS.

Some Forms of Nigerian Scams

1: The 4-1-9 scam, when they offer to transfer millions of dollars into your bank account for one reason or the other (looking through these reasons, they technically are untrue and flimsy).

2: Lottery scam, when they tell you that you’ve won something in some bogus lottery you never enrolled for or participated in.

3: Employment scams, etc.

These scams usually done via the internet are attempts by con artists to convince people to send them money. In Nigeria, these scams are also referred to as 419. The Nigerian Advance Fee scam is popularly called “419” (Four-One-Nine) after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud – Obtaining property by false pretenses; ” Cheating “. The scam historically had been committed using fax and regular postal mail, but in recent times, with email, the internet, and SMS, “scamming” knows no bound.

While Nigeria has become known for this type of scam, this practice is not limited to Nigeria. The scam originates in other parts of the world including the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Netherlands, etc. There have been known instances of citizens of other countries sending scam messages which claim to be originating from Nigeria.

How the Nigerian Advance Fee scam or 419 Typically Operates

An unsuspecting victim receives an unsolicited email from Nigeria that asks the victim to assist with laundering money or performing some other illegal activity such as hiding funds that were received from “over-invoiced” or “double invoiced” oil or other supply and service contracts or a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which the sender cannot access directly.

Typically the letter will claim to be coming from a high ranking government official or bank employee or even a refugee. The amounts involved are usually in millions of dollars, and victims are typically promised a large percentage of the money in return for their part in helping to retrieve or safeguard the money. Greed can lead one into falling as a prey.

As one might have noticed, there are several variations to this crime and known incidents have been very creative and range from the simplest of scams to very complicated structures.

Some Examples of the Advance Fee Scam

  • An inheritance is due to you: most times, victims are never aware they have any and some other times, victims do really have an inheritance somewhere. These scammers are creative, never forget that. Be swift in discarding emails as these.
  • Proceeds from Lottery Winnings: Victims receive messages claiming that they have won a large sum of money in a lottery or through some other stroke of luck. Victims will then be asked to send advance fees and personal information to allow the winnings to be processed and sent to the winner. However, in reality, there is no prize, no lottery and you never participated. Most times, this comes an SMS.
  • Online sales/Fake cheques: A product that you have for sale is purchased and a cheque for an amount that is greater than the amount you asked for is sent to you and you are asked to cash the cheque and send the extra amount back to the scammer. After sending the funds to the scammer, victims typically find out that the check bounces and they are held liable for the full amount that they had withdrawn and sent to the scammer. How painful this can be.
  • Email hijacking: Some scammers hack into email accounts and send email from the account to associates, friends, and family members of the legitimate account owner in order to convince them that the account owner is in some form of distress and needs money urgently. Always protect passwords and change them regularly.
  • Romance scams: Here the scammer meets a victim on an online dating website or a social networking site and pretends to be interested in the victim. The scammer may also send pictures of an attractive person to lure the victim and gain confidence. They’ll spend weeks grooming their victim, sending love letters and establishing a seemingly real relationship. Then, one day, usually before they intend to meet, something will happen — they’ll get robbed or hospitalized and will need a large sum of money. The scammer will tell their victims that their money is tied up in money orders or invested all of his money in a business deal and that they can’t access it, so they’ll ask the victim to wire them money to pay for hospital bills and the likes and the smarter ones, may even promise to pay back as soon as they get back on their feet.
  • PayPal scams: Scammers will respond to a listing on Craigslist, eBay, and other online shopping sites and tell their victims that they will pay through PayPal but that, because PayPal is protecting their buyers/sellers, that the money is being held until the victim provides a tracking number. Usually, the victim will get a fake email from “PayPal” informing them that money has been transferred to their account, though when they actually check their account online, the money won’t be there.
  • Proceeds from crude oil and other commodity deals: when you receive a mail with this kind of information, be extra swift to delete or call your associates if you ever had these deals with them.
  • Wash Wash or Money cleaning or Black Money: a large amount of stained foreign currency, typically U.S dollars or British pounds, needs to be cleaned before it can be used and some money is required to purchase chemicals that can be used to “clean” the foreign currency. After a victim sends money for “cleaning” the foreign currency, they eventually find out that the foreign currency is just piles of paper which have been dyed black or another color.

With the typical 419 scam, at some point during the process, the victim is typically asked to transfer some amount of money to help in speeding up the process, so the deal can be completed quickly. These requests for transfer are typically called an “Advance Fee”, “Transfer Tax”, “Performance Bond”, etc.

Most of the time, false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals are sent to the victims to convince them of the authenticity of the scam. Victims find that if they pay any money, the scam artists will claim that there are more steps that need to be taken and that these will require more advance payments.

The most common scams involve someone allegedly in Nigeria who is in some sort of trouble, ranging from detention to extortion or hospitalization. Inevitably, the sender is making an appeal for money. If this is someone you have not met personally, immediately stop communicating with whoever sent the message. Do not respond to it. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is a scam. Do not fall a victim.

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