Nigeria is a code word for all things corrupt. Home of the 419 scam.

Five Reasons Why Nigeria is the Scamsters’ Safe Haven

You’d think that by now, everybody would know better than to fall for any of the infamous “Nigerian scams,” such as the 419 scams. (The “419” designation comes from the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that addresses fraud.) Yet Nigerian scams are alive and well.

The 419 scams come in several variations, with a common ploy being a spelling- and grammar-challenged email in which the scammer claims to need the potential victim’s assistance to transfer millions of dollars in currency. There’s often a dramatic story involving a Doonesbury Cartoon - Nigerian Scammers
member of royalty, a powerful political figure, or at the very least, an extravagantly wealthy deceased relative. In return for assisting with the transfer, the victim is promised a generous percentage of the total. He or she is also asked to pay fees, charges, or taxes to expedite the international transfer; the fees often start out as modest amounts, but once paid, the scammer will continue to invent new fees that must be paid before the victim can claim the “reward.” What happens all too often, of course, is that once access to the account is granted the scammer ends up sucking the account dry, and the victim never sees a penny of the sum promised.
Over the years these crimes have been committed in person by con artists approaching unsuspecting strangers, as well as by traditional mail and, beginning in the 1980s, by fax. Naturally, the Internet made the scams cheaper and more scaleable. And although warnings about the scams are all over the Web and other media, people are still falling for them.

Contrary to the stereotypes, it’s not just Nigeria.
Before we go any further, it’s crucial to point out that the term “Nigerian scam” has gained traction in recent years as a generic term for this type of fraud. The truth is that Nigeria is far from the only country perpetrating the 419 and related scams. Other nations with a high incidence of originating this fraud are the United Kingdom, United States, Pakistan, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, and several other African nations besides Nigeria, including South Africa.

Yet Nigeria remains the most visible offender, partly because the modern version of the 419 scam is often said to have originated in that country, and perhaps in part because some of the most notorious – and ludicrous – emails have concerned so-called Nigerian royalty. Who in their right mind would believe such tall tales? Apparently many do, to the point that many scammers claim to be from Nigeria even when they’re not. Fraud watchers have concluded that they do it because it is an excellent screening method. The reasoning is that anyone who responds positively to an email that all but screams, “Look! I’m a fraud” is more gullible and more likely to fall for the scam. (The article linked to above references a 2012 report by Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley.)

This isn’t to deny the role that Nigeria has played and continues to play in the 419 and related scams. So just what is it about Nigeria that makes it a haven – real or virtual – for scammers? There are five main factors.

Nigeria’s rich breeding ground for crime

  1. Complicit banks. The 419 scams and other types of confidence tricks are practiced not only by individuals but also by crime syndicates. They require a complicit Nigerian bank, which is still all too easy to find in light of the country’s lax banking laws. Although the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was created in 2003 to combat this type of fraud, it hasn’t made a significant dent.
  2. Political corruption. Nigeria has been plagued by political corruption for many decades. Some analysts blame the pervasive corruption on colonialism, but in any case, Nigeria was ranked 144 out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (the most recent year for which data are available). According to a 2007 Time Magazine article, Nigeria’s leaders stole more than $400 billion between 1960 and 1999. Many Nigerians accept corruption, bribery, kickbacks and graft as unavoidable facts of life.
  3. Organized crime. There is a significant network of organized crime in Nigeria, with an emphasis on drug trafficking – mostly heroin and cocaine. Organized crime syndicates are associated with political and military figures, helping to keep the grim cycle of corruption – and political violence – alive.
  4. Widespread poverty. The disparity between the very wealthy and everyone else is particularly stark in Nigeria. Although the country is one of the world’s largest oil suppliers, the vast majority of Nigerians do not benefit from the wealth generated by that industry. Most Nigerians live in a state of appalling poverty, making fraud and other criminal activities tempting for many.
  5. The prevalence of English. Since Nigeria was once a British colony, most Nigerians are able to communicate in English, even if their grammar and spelling leave something to be desired. English is the language of most 419 victims.
  6. Some people go so far as to claim that Nigeria’s national character is one of corruption and dishonesty – a controversial position to take. In any case, as noted above, the problem of 419 fraud is not confined to Nigeria. Those who fight scams and fraud continue to remind people that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

    Author Bio:
    This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @

‘Nigerian’ Scam still top online Scam, says PandaLabs

the best defense

PandaLabs, Panda Security’s anti-malware laboratory has drawn up a ranking of the most widely used scams over the last few years. These confidence tricks, which are still in wide circulation, all have the same objective: to defraud users of amounts ranging from $500 to thousands of dollars.

Typically, these scams follow a similar pattern: initial contact is made via email or through social networks. The intended victim is then asked to respond, either by email, telephone, fax, etc. Once this initial bait has been taken, criminals will try to gain the trust of the victim, finally asking for a sum of money under one pretext or another.

According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, “As with all the classic scams that predate the Internet, many of the numerous users that fall for these tricks and lose their money are reticent to report the crime. And if recovering the stolen money was difficult in the old days, it is even harder now as the criminals’ tracks are often lost across the Web. The best defense is to learn how to identify these scams and avoid taking the bait”.

More information at the PandaLabs website.

Less 419 Scams while Nigerian Cable is Out?

Large parts of West Africa have communications blackouts after damage was found on the major undersea fiberoptic cable, known as SAT-3, which supplies countries such as Benin, Togo, Niger and Nigeria. The cable runs from Portugal and Spain to South Africa, via West Africa and has cut 70% of Nigeria’s bandwidth, causing severe problems for its banking sector, government and mobile phone networks.The SAT-3 Undersea Cable Route

The effects are expected to last as long as two weeks and I will be interested to see if this makes any difference to the numbers of 419 (aka AFF or simply ‘Nigerian’) scam solicitations, considering that the major source of the scourge is the West coastal coutries of Africa due to the endemic corruption and poor policiing in the region.

I look forward to the first email ….

“Due to the recent undersea cable fault, banking institutions had to resort to using cash-only transactions and I have found a large chest containing a huge amount of cash in US Dollars – I need someone in the west to help me to move it to the USA …..”

A backup, the West Africa Cable System linking southern and western African countries with Europe should be in service by 2011. This link will massively improve Internet speeds for South Africa, Angola, the Canary Islands, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Portugal and the United Kingdom. It will also bring submarine links online for the first time to the countries of Namibia, the Congo and Togo.

We shall see….

Scam Victims as Criminal as the Scammers?

This just in….

Australian victims of Nigerian online scams are greedy and should be jailed along with the Africans who relieved them of their cash, according to High Commissioner Sunday Olu Agb (Nigerian Envoy to Canberra).

“People who send their money are as guilty as those who are asking them to send the money,”

He said media coverage of Nigerian scams had given the corruption-plagued country “a bad image.” Agbi was responding to a police report that said Australians were losing A$36 Million (about $US 31,000,000) to online scams.

He complained that “those who want to transact business with us are always very suspicious”.

read more in the report by the Sydney Morning Herald

I agree that greed is what drives a large number of scams – as a social engineering construct, it works very well – the knowledge that the actions that they are taking are at best immoral, at worst criminal is normally tempered by the displacement of the crime (eg. another continent) and also the large amounts of money involved and the sense that no-one will ever find out.

When the scam is exposed, the common pattern or events is disbelief, then rage and then either shame/penitence or denial (The Sunk Cost Fallacy?). The last is always the most destructive – This is exploited by scammers who, when the victim has realized his errors, will offer more scams, purportedly to enable the victim to recover some of his lost money. I have seen this many times and the 419 type scammers are the experts at this type of ‘scam cascade’.

Greed, Opportunity and Low Risk drives all financial crimes – an email arriving with a request from an African official to help him ‘move’ some money out of his country to yours is just the ‘carrot’ that many people need.

Mrs Thatcher and the £20,000,000 from her hubby

From: Lady Rebecca Thatcher.
No:36 Old Shrewberry Street,
London England.

Beloved,i am Lady Rebecca Thatcher, suffering from cancerous ailment..I used to be married to Sir Jeremy Thatcher an Englishman who is dead
and resting peacefully. My husband was into private practice all his life
before he passed. Our life together as man and wife lasted for three decades without offsprings. My husband died after a protracted illness in an accident he got from Africa while on humanitarian duties.

My husband,while he was alive made a vow to uplift the down-trodden and the less-privileged individuals as he had passion for persons who can not help
themselves due to physical disability or financial predicament.I can adduce this to the fact that he needed a Child from the marriage, which never came.

When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of Twenty Million Pounds which were derived from his vast estates and investment incapital market with his bank here in UK. Presently, this money is still with the Bank. Recently, my Doctor told me that I have limited days to live due to the cancerous problems I am suffering from.
Though what bothers me most is the stroke that I have in addition to the cancer. With this hard reality that has befallen me, I have decided
to donate this fund to you and want you to use this gift which comes from my husbands effort to fund the upkeep of widows, widowers, orphans,
destitute, the down-trodden, physically challenged children, barren-women and persons who prove to be genuinely handicapped financially.
I took this decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and my husbands relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons and I do not want my husbands hard earned money to be misused or
invested into ill perceived ventures. I do not want this money to be misused hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid
of death hence I know where I am going. I do not need any telephone communication in this regard due to my deteriorating health and because of
the presence of my husbands relatives around me. I do not want them to know about this development because i want the money used for the Less
My happiness is that I lived a life worthy of emulation. Please assure me that you will act just as I have stated herein.
Hope to hear from you soon.
You can contact me through my personal email address at:

Michigan County treasurer in Million Dollar Nigerian Scam

A former Michigan county treasurer was arrested last week for allegedly embezzling more than US$1.2 million in public funds, which he sent to a Nigerian fraud scam.

Thomas Katona, 56, the former treasurer of Alcona County, was arraigned in a district court on 17 January on eight counts of embezzlement by a public official and one count of forgery, according to a report in the Oscoda Press.

Held in lieu of US$1 million bond, Katona faces a maximum of 14 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on 31 January.

An audit of county finances by the Michigan Treasury Department revealed a shortage of more than US$1.2 million, state Attorney General Mike Cox told the Press.

County employees were notified last November by National City Bank that Katona had allegedly made unauthorized wire transfers of county funds, according to the press report.

Katona was first elected Alcona County treasurer in 1993. He was removed from the position two months ago by the Alcona County Board of Commissioners.

“Black Money” Scam – As seen on TV

If you can wait while the ad plays, this is a very interesting backgrounder for the ‘Nigerian’ scam called ‘Black Money’. In this scam, suitcases full of black paper are sold, along with a very expensive chemical which they claim will wash the black ink off the money, returning it to it’s full value.

Black Money Scam on ABC News

They claim that the cash has been marked to make it non-legal tender or to hide it from customs.

The father of a suitor of Chelsea Clinton (Ed Mezvinsky) has fallen foul of this scam himself, and the ensuing race to raise cash has landed him in jail.

Mezvinsky’s stories sound fantastic. At one point, he says, he found himself in Africa gazing on an open suitcase filled with paper shaped like money, although the bills were black.

“That’s the way they would hide it,” he says. “The man later came out with a chemical, threw it on the money, and it all turned to $100 bills. He gave me 10 to have them tested back home. And they were real.”

Some of the African schemes were not far removed from the classic, laughable Nigerian scams often run through the Internet – seeking victims with financial backing to extract millions out of bogus accounts. Others were sophisticated oil prospects.

Read the rest here