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Nigerian 419 Scams and Spam Emails Are Funny But They Make Me Paranoid

Published 5/8/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

My online messaging routine was doing fine for a while. Every morning I would check my Yahoo e-mail account for messages, and then go about my regular work day, periodically checking back for personal and business related messages. Since I forward and consolidate all of my personal, work, and blog business related emails to one account with Yahoo, I have one easy point of access to my messages - essentially one well oiled emailing machine. Of course, there was always the occasional spam, but that was usually manageable - until now - until the Nigerians struck, and struck hard.

Spammers and Scammers Are Relentless And They Can Afford To Be - Sending E-Mail Lures With Scam Bait Doesn't Cost A Thing

Starting very recently, I've been receiving nearly 20-30 spam related messages everyday. I have no idea how they are effectively evading my spam filters, but they are. These spam messages are driving me absolutely crazy and are irritating to say the least. But one can't help but find some amusement from the content of these desperate messages. These spam letters that flood the web are mostly from the poor African country of Nigeria - sent by notorious computer users who run well documented Nigerian 419 scam operations. You know when you receive one of these classic Nigerian 419 spam letters as they are pretty recognizable. Usually the Nigerians use very flowery, British style English comprised of exaggerated legalese-type terminology to make the content appear more legitimate. However, oftentimes their lame use of the English language borders on comical and their complete lack of understanding regarding American and western male and female names makes me chuckle. For some reason they have a habit of using the funniest and oddest fake first and last names - using common first names as last names, and improperly matching up male and female names - like Peter John, Mark Donna, or Smith Karen for example - frequently it's pretty obvious they're fake names as the names simply sound unnatural. But then again, these Nigerians and African spammers are not incredibly bright. They may be criminally and diabolically clever, but they are not exactly all that well educated or worldly. They resort more to the law of probability and the long held truism that "a sucker's born every minute". By casting a very wide net, even their ill conceived attempts may net at least one or two potential biting fish in the long haul.

It's not just the crazy Nigerians either, spammers and scammers live in other countries as well - all beyond the reasonable reach of established arms of law and justice. Most of them approach the spam and scam business utilizing the same typical shot gun approach. Since the Internet affords the ability to send out many messages at relatively little to no cost, they are able to send out massive amounts of spam emails to potential victims with one click of the mouse or a single tap of the keyboard. Perhaps 75% of their spam messages will be screened out by domain or email spam filters, and perhaps another 90% of those that don't get filtered out are ultimately deleted by the recipients immediately. However, a small percentage will still get through and a small percentage will be read, and an even smaller percentage will ultimately fall for the scam bait. While the chances of an unwitting recipient acting acting upon the message and replying back to the Nigerian scammer are slim, some people still do.

Frankly, these scammers from Nigeria, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia have nothing to lose - the scams are usually quite profitable for them. Take the Nigerians for example - they live in a wasteland of a country - with a corrupt government, lax law enforcement, high unemployment, with little semblance of an economy. Any amount of money they can siphon from American citizens or that of other western countries is worth the effort and time. To them, there is simply very little risk involved since their government and police enforcement officials either turn a blind eye to their antics, don't care, or are simply too financially overwhelmed to take on the challenge of cracking down on computer crimes.

Although I may have some sympathy for the poor economic lives the scammers must live in their native countries, their criminal attempts at trickery often leave me coldly and sarcastically insensitive. However, that doesn't mean I can't amuse myself with their lame shenanigans. That's why I sometimes enjoy reading spam emails - they're funny. They really amuse me - like something from the funny pages. Today I received an email from poor "Madam Ruth Moses" who addressed me as "dearly beloved in Christ", stating that she was "suffering from a cancerous ailment" and that she was "married to Engineer Gilbert Moses an Englishman who is dead". Apparently they lived a life of charity of helping the "down trodden and the less-privileged individuals". Evidently she now has $4.4 million US dollars in some African bank due to a large financial payout stemming from her husband's untimely death in a car accident that she is unable to retrieve, and is willing to give me a 25% cut if I assist by providing her a "small process charge" to help facilitate the release. Oh how generous and noble of Mrs. Moses - especially since she enjoys citing biblical passages in her message to me, for as she puts it "The Almighty will fight my case and I shall hold my peace." Comical, yet pretty pathetic. If I ever had the chance to meet any of these spammers, I'd laugh at their face for 15 minute straight.

I Am Now Very Distrustful and Extremely Paranoid About Doing Business Or Any Online Communication With Residents From Proven Scam and Spam Prevalent Countries

Unfortunately, what scammers with their spam emails have done is made me very distrustful of anyone from traditional scam haven countries. The list of countries mainly stem from poor, and legally and socially undeveloped countries like Nigeria, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Indonesia, but it also covers countries like Russia as well. Many of these third world countries either have corrupt governments or are constantly experiencing tribal warfare and upheaval that prevent stable law and judicial enforcement to flourish. But as of now, I would never do any online business with people who live in those countries at the present time. I've already been tricked once and after my one time experience of getting scammed during my post college years, I've learned my lesson. It may not be politically correct, but I think it's a smart business move to refrain from doing any online or Internet transactions with anyone from these countries - the financial risks are simply too high. My purpose for rejecting individuals from these countries is not to stir up racial, ethnic, or even social controversy, but simply to protect my own financial interests, so please don't take offense. I would gladly do business with them and so would millions of American merchants on eBay, Craigslist, and other online stores if only fraud wasn't such a huge and rampant problem in those parts of the world.

I run a few small online eBay and weblog businesses (take a look at my ebay business guide), and these days the quickest way to turn me off and cause me to reject your business proposition right off the bat is to say you're from Africa - it frankly doesn't matter which country in Africa. I have yet to meet a single African country (aside from South Africa, although that's debatable as well) that I trust to do business with. The rampant scams and spams that originate from that continent have turned me into a hyper-vigilant person. Most African countries simply have undeveloped legal systems that prevent merchants or publishers like myself from being able to bring legal action to effectuate contractual disputes. That is why the U.S. is such a great country. Despite our over-lawyered and lawsuit-happy society, we have a perfected legal system that ensures legal disputes have a forum to be heard and resolved. Scammers and spammers have a much more difficult time operating their illegal craft here in this country. A few foreign rotten apples have really ruined the whole international tree and apple pile, but online entrepreneurs like myself have to do to what it takes to protect ourselves and our interests. It may seem racist and prejudicial to rule out a whole segment of the world's population, but it's not - it's just smart business.

Despite eBay's attempts to provide it's buyers and sellers with more purchase and selling protection, many if not most major eBay Power Sellers now refuse to ship to certain dangerous countries, such as Nigeria or Indonesia. A sizable number of merchants have even ruled out shipping to any foreign destination due to the prevalence of scammers living overseas where they are shielded from prosecution. It's terrible what these online and Internet scammers have done to the whole industry. These days as I browse through business propositions and offers I receive over email on a regular basis, even African sounding surnames, African cities (like Lagos, scam capital of Nigeria), African banks, and anything to do with Africa trigger glaring red flags when I evaluate Internet commerce deals. So if your online business is based in Africa, I'm sorry, but I don't want to do business with you at this time. Perhaps someday when your government stabilizes and sets up a legal system that will protect and ensure my legal and contractual interests I will consider it. But until then, too bad so sad. If you are a legitimate African, East European, or South East Asian business, don't be offended if established western and far east Asian businesses demand strenuous proof of identity and extra evidence of trustworthiness before doing business with you.

All About The Nigerian 419 Advance Fee Fraud - Also Known As The Check Cashing Scam (For Those Not Familiar With What They Are)

The classic Nigerian 419 scam has been around for a long time but scam success didn't fully take off until the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web. The country of Nigeria has all the essential ingredients that has enabled it to become the worldwide hub of Internet and computer crimes. The country is not only dirt poor, but unemployment is incredibly high, and the government is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent. The country also happens to be an English speaking nation - making it all the more easier for select scammers to communicate with their primarily English speaking victims all over the world. The 419 numeric designation refers to the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers the crime of fraudulently obtaining property through false pretenses. Unfortunately the 419 criminal code is a mockery of the Nigerian legal and criminal enforcement system as the laws in that country are frequently ignored and flaunted, thereby allowing scammers and spammers to run rampant with little fear of accountability. The Nigerian 419 scams have recently developed into a world wide epidemic of Internet fraud crimes that have branched and spun off into other criminal areas such as: charity scams, romance scams, lottery scams, and even threats of violence and extortion scams.

In its most common form, the Nigerian 419 fraud is also known as the Nigerian advance fee scam. The process works by its ability to successfully build trust and emotional confidence with the alleged victim over time, and ultimately persuade him or her to provide confidential financial information or to send sums of money for the possibility of a much larger gain in return. The scam appeals to human greed and the fallible desire to inherently trust others. Through easy and unregulated access to Internet cafe computers and connections, Nigerian scammers have been able to harvest e-mail addresses and contact information to use in their elaborate scams. With potential victim contact information in hand, they usually submit massive amounts of electronic letters to recipients though deceptive means such as spoofed email letters, and cleverly disguised and graphically adorned emails that hide their malicious intent and true source. Oftentimes they'll write and pretend to be a wealthy heiress or someone who is terminally ill and dying from a disease like cancer, and plead with the recipient for an amount of money in exchange for the promise that they will pay back the amount plus more. Oftentimes they will cleverly claim that they have access to or are in control of a vast financial fortune to which they would be willing to offer the recipient a huge portion as a reward if he or she would provide some upfront money first.

These scam letters are frequently very, very elaborate, as they often disguise the email meta headers to make them seem like they came from legitimate sources such as governmental agencies (like the classic IRS email scam letter for example). Sometimes the headers aren't even disguised all that well, but the messages still contain content indicative of a mass spam campaign to artificially inflate the stock price of a particular financial investment (penny stock scam spam). Oftentimes they'll make references to real life current events such as tragic disasters or make reference to official business developments such as laying claim to being connected with some wealthy foreign business developer in the news. Oftentimes they utilize fake phone numbers that can't be tracked down. One common ploy of the advance fee scam is to send the recipient a fraudulent Western Union or fake personal check for a very large amount of money, and write to the recipient to apologize for the excess amount that was sent and ask for a portion back in supposed good faith. The recipient, thinking he or she will get to keep a large portion for their services, deposits the fake check and cuts out a legitimate sum of money that he or she then sends to the scammers. In time, the check will undoubtedly bounce, forcing the recipient to swallow his or her losses with the bank - an unfortunate result that still happens despite attempts to thoroughly educate the public on the prevalence of Internet scams and how they work.

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13 Responses to “Nigerian 419 Scams and Spam Emails Are Funny But They Make Me Paranoid” 

  1. AndyS says:

    Very information artcile. I did not realize Nigeria was an English speaking country and that's why scams can orginiate from there (I knew it had a hopeless legal system). I have been getting these "money transfer" type letters as well and recently the scam letter which I wrote about recently

    I wonder how succesful these scams are. I know there was a story on it a while back by Chris Hanson (dateline I think).


  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    I hesitate to do business outside the states simply because I hope being in the same country helps a little bit with legal issues. I'd be even more hesitant to do business with people in countries with bad reps for solving legal problems.

  3. Raymond says:

    Well I'm just thankful we live in a country filled with lawyers and a developed legal system. Like it or not, it protects our personal and financial interests and helps resolve disputes.

    I am still getting bombarded by 419 spam emails today. When will they stop and leave me be?

    There used to be this online program called Blue Frog run by a company called Blue Security a few years ago that was successful at countering against spam emails for a while. It worked by redirecting spam mail back to its source via automatically generated electronic complaints. It worked too well and resulted in a massive spammer retaliatory attack that ultimately took the company's website servers off line. I guess the spammers won because the Blue Frog program is now gone. I hope this new Black Frog version they are working on will get resurrected one day. We can only hope.

  4. MAT says:

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for your nice website. Concerning this article, I just want to remind (tell) you that Romania and Bulgaria are now part of the european union and are not 'third world countries'. Even though Bulgaria seems to face a lot of corruption problems they both have (and especially romania) a fairly good legal system. I understand you prefer to deal with people from your own country but please be careful of the sometimes too easy stereotypes. Please continue to give us nice info on this blog.


  5. Raymond says:

    Hi Mat,

    Thanks for dropping by! Sorry if what I wrote seemed offensive. I'm just trying to protect my readers based on what I've been exposed to. I have no personal prejudices...it's just purely economical and business related reasons that I advise against dealing with people from certain countries. I hope Bulgaria and Romania's introduction into the EU will help encourage better system controls and further development of their legal systems.

    Big corporations have ways to deal with corruption and illegal activities, but small time amateur business types like myself often get ripped off by unscrupulous online scammers. Oftentimes we have to generalize and take extra precautions, even if that means we have to be extra picky or over discerning.

    For what it's worth, Eastern Europe isn't as bad as Africa or South East Asia on this matter....

  6. John says:

    I love baiting 419 scammers and them writing reports about them. If you want, you can write a review on the individual at Review Page (link). Go to that website and click "Write People Review". It's one of the few websites where you can actually "Review People".

  7. Tad says:

    Why would anyone fall for this ? Nothing in life is free

  8. Konrad says:

    hello everyone,
    living in the United Kingdom, I am just wondering how it is possible or if it is possible
    for the guys who have been scammed by the nigerians to take out big sums of money from their bank accounts to return it to the scammers before the cheque is cleared,
    anyone working in a bank on here who knows?
    And why the banks dont set up better protection for their costumers if that really is possible?


  9. John Maxen says:

    Can you give more details on this?

  10. charles says:

    this article is spot on, even if you are quite technically capable, some of these n-spam mails make you think. ok so in most cases you just look at the forwarding url or email address and then things become clear eg barclays.com which goes to barclays.a1.cn

  11. Onyi says:

    unfortunately I can't just leave this blog without putting in my two cents about this 419 scammers bit.

    "That is why the U.S. is such a great country. Despite our over-lawyered and lawsuit-happy society, we have a perfected legal system that ensures legal disputes have a forum to be heard and resolved. Scammers and spammers have a much more difficult time operating their illegal craft here in this country." FOR REAL?!???

    Has anyone heard of Madoff or Stanford? <That was a rhetorical question but if you haven't then google them with fraud after their names.

    Its a good thing the US has an impressive legal system huh! Decades worth of fraud, billions of dollars lost for large institutions and ordinary individuals but yes, its a good thing that legal system is up and running! People won't be able to get their money back but YES its a good thing that legal system is up and running.

    Please, jump off your high horse and see the bigger picture. Also thank you for showing the colors of a true American. While I can understand that spam messages are just too much of a hassle in a busy American life , these classic American fraudsters have stolen more, and affected the American economy more than those 419 scammers have. The present day troubles of these third world countries started with the deleterious effects of colonialism. Even the commenters on this blog don't seem very educated...take the first one "Very information artcile. I did not realize Nigeria was an English speaking country and that's why scams can orginiate from there" Maybe I should do a run-down of every English speaking country and its connection to the Crown.

    Although, society has done well in educating you blokes about which countries to visit and which ones to stay away from. American society has raised you well!

  12. Olu says:

    I must say that the article is well detailed BUT I would advice the person writing to be very cautious with irresponsible language used to generalise an entire country.
    Nigerians vary from region to region and most people are not aware of that fact. Its the mess the British left behind thats haunting the rest of the world. Having said that, there is no excuse for crime and I do not condone it in any form BUT it does take a greedy person to fall for one of these stupid letters promising sugar candy mountain with a little investment. I support the proposal that both the victim and the guilty parties in such circumstances should be punished. Then we may have less of this stupid acts being successful.
    Why would you send money to someone YOU DO NOT KNOW!!!!!!! Think of it....

  13. Maluzha says:

    It is apparent that people that get scammed can open and read e-mails but they do not think logically. How can one possibly think that he has won or can share millions of dollars from someone he/she doesnt know? You have never won any prize money in lotto or coloring competition in school but you expect to get millions just by opening your e-mail!

    I am from an African country Zimbabwe and I am proud of that. There are no such scams from Zimbabwe. Nigerian scammers operate from different countries and labelling such countries as bad business partners is unfortunate.

    I say to all people not necessarily Americans wake up never expect to win millions of $$$ from someone you do not know at all.Never trust anyone apart from your mother if you are male and father if you are female.

    Stop forwarding jokes or good biblical messages to your relatives and people who send them to you coz u are only giving these scammers your friends' and familys' e-mail addresses.

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