Nigerian Scams

Most people link Nigerian scams to the advance fee fraud or 419 scam that tries to trick victims into parting with their money by persuading them that they will receive a substantial benefit in return for a modest payment in advance.

In the last few years some expatriate Nigerians have set up operations in Britain, Australia, United States, Hong Kong, Canada, Japan as well as other African countries so the business has international dimensions now.

If you reviewed the background and social and political upheaval that has occurred in Nigeria, it has created a scenario in which unsuspecting individuals could be persuaded that funds located in Nigeria needed to be moved to Western countries in order to prevent them from being either devalued or confiscated.

As an example, during General Sani Abacha's regime, billions of dollars were taken from the national treasury. The family of General Abacha have recently handed back $750 million worth of currencies taken from state funds and these have since been deposited in the Central Bank of Nigeria [Times 1998].

One of the Nigerian scams involves victims being informed of the existence of case loads of bank notes which have been coated with a mixture of Vaseline and iodine in order to disguise their identity from the authorities. Victims are shown the money and told a special compound can be used to 'wash' the money. Only a few real blackened U.S. $100 notes are shown and washed in front of the victim using ordinary cleaning fluid.

The remaining material in the case is blank, blackened paper. The victim is asked to provide between U.S.$50,000 - U.S.$100,000 for a large amount of the cleaning fluid. After the advance fee has been received, the chemicals are not delivered and the victim is left with a case of worthless paper.

The main Nigerian scams are:

Basis for the Nigerian Scams

In general, the Nigerian scams are based on:

  • Defraud the government of 'forgotten' or former regime accounts
  • Transfer of funds from over-invoiced contracts and government employees
  • Assistance escaping the country with loads of wealth
  • Sale of crude oil [or other commodities] at below market prices
  • Money laundering
  • Forgotten accounts
  • Lottery winnings
  • Gifts or bequests to charitable or religious organisations that have an overpayment element or 'fees' to release the money
  • Transfer of funds of now defunct businesses
  • Purchase of real estate
  • Chemicals to clean large amounts of money
  • Wills, inheritances and death bed claims of wealth
  • Fake job offers where rebate required for overpayment of wages
craigslist escrow service scams

The Sender

The sender of the Nigerian scams is usually:

  • A senior civil servant from a department such as the Federal Tenders Board, the Nigerian Petroleum Corporation, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance or the Nigerian Export Promotion Council
  • Nigerian royalty or a political insider such as the son of the President of Nigeria, or a Nigerian prince or princess
  • An auditor or accountant with connections to Nigerian officials
  • A relative or confidante of a deposed leader
  • A Nigerian lawyer or businessman with a title such as Dr, Barrister or Chief

The Money

The money lost in the Nigerian scams is usually for:

  • Fees and deed stamps
  • Transaction fees or bribes
  • Attorney fees
  • Gifts
  • Export or insurance fees to move the money to a foreign bank account
  • Stamp duty
  • Fees for signing, audits and VAT
  • Anti-terrorist certificate or drug free certificate fees
  • Registration fees, transfer taxes or licensing fees

Don't Rely on Cashier's Checks

Scammers participate in legitimate online auctions and send a check to pay for winnings, or make business purchases with checks. Many people in the U.S. think this is as good as cash but it is not.

The scammer sends more than the winning amount and then asks for the excess to be wired back. When the victim apparently successfully deposits the cashier's check, they believe the buyer is genuine and send the money. A few weeks later the bank discovers the check is fake and the deposit is reversed. The victim is now out of pocket for the money and the goods.

A variation is when a scammer sends a check to a religious organisation or charity and the check is overwritten and a refund of the excess is requested, similar to the above example.

What to do with Nigerian Scams

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