What are 419 scams?
Dear Sir, I'm writing to you on behalf of a Nigerian government contractor …
One of the most well-known scams on the Internet is the 419 scam, also known as a Nigerian Advance Fee scam or a lottery scam. It offers you huge financial rewards, if you first send a smaller amount to help make the big bucks accessible by covering expenses such as banking fees and administrative costs. If you take the bait, the scammers will continue to ask for money 'till kingdom come and of course the final payoff never happens.
A Nigerian industry
419 scams were named after the Nigerian legal code they violate and they have been around since the start of this millennium, when online scammers operating out of Nigeria began defrauding victims of tens of millions of dollars. Financial fraud quickly became one of the three largest industries in Nigeria and by 2001 the scams had gotten so extensive that the U.S. government told the West African country to take steps to decrease 419 crimes or face sanctions.
Despite these threats, fraudsters continued spitting out 419 scams and the idea spread to online scammers throughout the world. According to analysts, the total losses from 419 scams in 2005 were $520 million (£275m) in the UK and $720 million in the United States alone.
In March 2009, agents from Spain's technological investigation squad, UDEF Central, arrested 23 people who were accused of defrauding 150 people in both the United States and Europe. According to the police, the suspects sent out 20,000 scam e-mails per day and had a list of the e-mail addresses of 55,000 potential victims.
In October 2009, the Nigerian government announced that they are launching "Operation Eagle Claw", a joint effort with Microsoft to apprehend Nigerian 419 scammers.
You've won the lottery!
A recent twist on the 419 scam is the "fake check" scam, in which a con artist emails you to tell you've won the lottery and a check soon arrives. You deposit it and wire back a so-called processing fee – and before you realize that the original check was fake, your money is gone. According to the National Consumers League in the US, fake check scams have now become the third most prevalent form of Internet fraud. Is necessary to use for your inbox email protection a spam filter software to protect against the latest online threats.
Other recent variants on the 419 theme include love schemes taking advantage of lonely hearts on dating sites. The scammer promises to move and the victim receives a fake check for travel expenses and is asked to wire money back to the scammer. Naturally, the dream lover never shows up.