Currently, there are over 200 Scambook reports of people being scammed into sending money to Nigeria. While they come in different forms, all of the Nigerian Scams, or “419” Scams, result in the same thing: you wire money overseas. If you’re a regular reader of the Scambook blog, then you know that if anyone online asks you to use Western Union or MoneyGram to wire them money, it’s likely a scam.
Long Lost Uncle
The most common 419 scams involve large sums of money that are promised to you but are tied up at the moment. The scammers might tell you that you have a long-lost uncle that has recently died in Nigeria with over $100,000,000 in his name. However, your poor uncle did not leave a will. But, because you are the closest living relative, the money should go to you. All that needs to be done is for you to pay a small handling fee for customs or for a lawyer or for a bank.
Now, there are a couple questions you should be asking yourself. First, do you actually have a long-lost uncle? If you do, are you sure he or she died? And was it in Nigeria? And could they really have such a vast fortune without you hearing anything at Thanksgiving from your family? Second, why is someone e-mailing you about this? If someone actually left you $100,000,000 you would probably get a phone call, personal visit, or regular mail from an attorney who will want to conduct meetings with you in person.
Things Don’t Add Up
$100,000,000 is a lot of money. Imagine if someone rang your doorbell claiming to have a lottery ticket for $1,000,000 that you can buy for only $20. No one with $1,000,000 would offer it to you for so cheap, unless the ticket is a fake. You can think of the 419 scam in that way too, why would someone who has access to $100,000,000 need a few hundred or a few thousand dollars from you when they could just take it from the money or send you a bill?
The best thing you can do in this situation is to mark it as spam and delete the e-mail as soon as you get it. Then, go on to Scambook.com and share the scam and research other similar ones.
The 419 Low Down
“419” refers to the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with frauds, just like these ones. While not unique to Nigeria, these scams have grown tremendously with e-mail. They started in the early 1980’s as a way to scam companies interested in oil and were very successful for the scammers. As international communication became easier with the rise of e-mail, the scammers could now target individuals. It is now so prevalent in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, and even Russia, that there are warnings for visitors to those countries to be on the watch for 419 scams. To learn more about the 419 scam, and its variations, you can look at this thorough Wikipedia article.
How to Stay Safe
The FBI is aware of this type of scam and has some tips on how to avoid 419 fraud. You can see the entire article here, http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud. Some of the tips they recommend, along with ours, are:
1. Don’t respond: if you get a letter from someone asking for money, no matter how much they promise to give you in return, don’t respond to it. Instead, mark it as spam, delete it, or forward it to your local FBI office.
2. Warn others: tell anyone you know who has received an e-mail like this not to respond. If you know someone who already is in correspondence with a scammer, tell that person to contact the FBI.
3. Be guarding: don’t give out your personal information unless it is a trusted website. It only takes one time for you to become a victim of fraud. Treat your personal information as a well-guarded secret.
4. Check Scambook.com: only by visiting Scambook.com can you find out the latest scams before they happen to you. If you have the slightest hesitancy when providing personal information, check Scambook.com to see if anyone else has gone through the same experience.
Stay safe out there. Don’t let the promise of vast amounts of money trick you into getting scammed.