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Ecommerce & Web Marketing Ezine. January 24, 2004

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Greetings all,

"419" - Nigerian Scams

A CNN article caught my eye a few days ago, regarding some Nigerians who were being brought to trial for "419" type scams. 

These are the scams that hit inboxes thousands of times each day where persons purporting to be bankers, family of royalty or government officials offer people x million dollars to help transfer money (which doesn't exist) out of Nigeria. 

The (gullible and greedy) victim often pays large amounts of money in order to help these scammers to release the fictitious amounts of cash. Initially, no mention of the victim needing to contribute funds is made; they are only asked to open a bank account/provide banking details to *deposit* cash into. Over time the scammers siphon cash from the victim by using excuses of needing to bribe government officials etc. in order to release the x million dollars.

My father tells me this scam has been going on since the 80's - he was with the Australian Department of Consumer Affairs at the time and saw many people fall prey to it.. the only difference was that in those days, this scam was carried out via mail or fax. 

Even though the scam has been around for decades and given extensive coverage, people still do get caught, spurred on by the promise of riches. It is one of the biggest industries in Nigeria. Years ago, the government of Nigeria turned a blind eye to the practice - many government officials were actually involved. Westerners who traveled to Nigeria to try and get their money back would often disappear.

Thankfully, the Nigerian Government is becoming more pro-active in dealing with these 419 scams as outlined in this CNN article headlined - Five Nigerians charged in $242 million '419' fraud trial

"419" relates to Advance Fee Fraud in Nigerian law.

The Nigerian Government also now has a web site where these scams can be reported - so, if you get one of these scammers approaching you, there is something you can do about it.


It looks as though the current government has finally woken up to the fact that what was one of their biggest earners has "severe negative consequences on Nigeria, including decreased Foreign Direct Investments in the country and tainting of Nigeria's national image" - like, duh! 

Mention the word "Nigeria" to anyone who's been involved with ecommerce for any length of time and the first term likely to pop into their mind is "fraud". In fact, the reason that many ecommerce merchants won't accept *any* orders from *any* African country is largely due to Nigerian activities . It's very encouraging to see that something is being done - and hopefully it's not just lip service.

419 type scams are particularly endemic to Nigeria; but they do occasionally pop up in other countries; including Australia. We had a case only a few months ago of an Australian being involved in fleecing hundreds of thousands of dollars from people. So, in a nutshell, it doesn't matter where the email comes from; if a stranger offers you huge amounts of money; let common sense prevail.

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