Advance-fee fraud

Advance-fee fraud
African sting

An advance-fee fraud is a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain.[1] Among the variations on this type of scam are the Nigerian Letter (also called the 419 fraud, Nigerian scam, Nigerian bank scam, or Nigerian money offer),[2] the Spanish Prisoner, the black money scam as well as Russian/Ukrainian scam (also widespread, though far less popular than the former). The so-called Russian and Nigerian scams stand for wholly dissimilar organized-crime traditions; they therefore tend to use altogether different breeds of approaches.

Although similar to older scams such as the Spanish Prisoner, the modern 419 scam originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based Nigerian economy declined. Several unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the west, and later the wider population. Scammers in the early-to-mid 1990s targeted companies, sending scam messages via letter,[3] fax, or Telex.[4] The spread of e-mail and easy access to e-mail-harvesting software significantly lowered the cost of sending scam letters by using the Internet. In the 2000s, the 419 scam has spurred imitations from other locations in Africa, Philippines, Malaysia, Russia, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud.[5] The American Dialect Society has traced the term "419 fraud" back to 1992.[6]

The advance-fee fraud is similar to a much older scam known as the Spanish Prisoner scam[7] in which the trickster tells the victim that a rich prisoner promised to share treasure with the victim in exchange for money to bribe prison guards. An older version of this scam existed by the end of 18th century, and is called "the Letter From Jerusalem" by Eugène François Vidocq, in his memoirs.[8]

Insa Nolte, a lecturer of University of Birmingham's African Studies Department, stated that "The availability of e-mail helped to transform a local form of fraud into one of Nigeria's most important export industries."[9]

Embassies and other organizations warn visitors to various countries about 419. Countries in West Africa with warnings cited include Nigeria,[7][10] Ghana,[11][12] Benin,[13] Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast),[14] Togo,[15][16] Senegal[17] and Burkina Faso.[18] Countries outside West Africa with 419 warnings cited include South Africa,[16][19] Spain,[19] and the Netherlands.[20]



This scam usually begins with a letter or e-mail[7] purportedly sent to a selected recipient but actually sent to many, making an offer that would result in a large payoff for the victim. The e-mail's subject line often says something like "From the desk of barrister [Name]", "Your assistance is needed", and so on. The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it. Such people, who may be real but impersonated people or fictitious characters played by the con artist, could include, for example, the wife or son of a deposed African or Indonesian leader or dictator who has amassed a stolen fortune, or a bank employee who knows of a terminally ill wealthy person with no relatives or a wealthy foreigner who deposited money in the bank just before dying in a plane crash (leaving no will or known next of kin),[21] a US soldier who has stumbled upon a hidden cache of gold in Iraq, a business being audited by the government, a disgruntled worker or corrupt government official who has embezzled funds, a refugee,[22] and similar characters. The money could be in the form of gold bullion, gold dust, money in a bank account, blood diamonds, a series of checks or bank drafts, and so forth. The sums involved are usually in the millions of dollars, and the investor is promised a large share, typically ten to forty percent, if they assist the scam character in retrieving the money. Whilst the vast majority of recipients do not respond to these e-mails, a very small percentage do, enough to make the fraud worthwhile as many millions of messages can be sent. Invariably sums of money which are substantial, but very much smaller than the promised profits, are said to be required in advance for bribes, fees, etc.—this is the money being stolen from the victim, who thinks he or she is investing to make a huge profit.

Many operations are professionally organized in Nigeria, with offices, working fax numbers, and often contacts at government offices.[citation needed] The victim who attempts to research the background of the offer often finds that all pieces fit together.[citation needed] Such scammers can often lure wealthy investors, investment groups, or other business entities into scams resulting in multi-million dollar losses.[citation needed] However, many scammers are part of less organized gangs or are operating independently; such scammers have reduced access to the above connections and thus have little success with wealthier investors or business entities attempting to research them, but are still convincing to middle-class individuals and small businesses, and can bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from such victims.

If the victim agrees to the deal, the other side often sends one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals. 419 scammers often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the Internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves. Often a photograph used by a scammer is not of any person involved in the scheme. Multiple "people" involved in schemes are fictitious; the author of the "West African Advance Fee Scams" article posted on the website of the Embassy of the United States in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire believes that in many cases one person controls many fictitious personas used in scams.[14]

A scammer introduces a delay or monetary hurdle that prevents the deal from occurring as planned, such as "To transmit the money, we need to bribe a bank official. Could you help us with a loan?" or "For you to be a party to the transaction, you must have holdings at a Nigerian bank of $100,000 or more" or similar. More delays and more additional costs are added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive, convincing the victim that the money they are currently paying is covered several times over by the payoff. Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian side, to pay certain fees, had to sell belongings and borrow money on their house, or by pointing out the different salary scale and living conditions in Africa, compared to the West. Much of the time, however, the needed psychological pressure is self-applied; once the victims have put money in toward the payoff, they feel they have a vested interest in seeing the "deal" through. Some victims believe that they can cheat the con artist.[14] This idea is often encouraged by the fraudsters who write in a clumsy and uneducated style which presents them as naive and easily cheated by a sophisticated Westerner.[citation needed]

The essential fact in all advance-fee fraud operations is that the promised money transfer never happens because the money or gold does not exist. The perpetrators rely on the fact that, by the time the victim realizes this (often only after being confronted by a third party who has noticed the transactions or conversation and recognized the scam), the victim may have sent thousands of dollars of their own money, and sometimes thousands or millions more that has been borrowed or stolen, to the scammer via an untraceable and/or irreversible means such as wire transfer.[14]

In extreme cases the victim may not realize that he or she has been defrauded. A version of the scam is for the thief to claim to have contacts to facilitate legitimate business loans; the victim here is not persuaded that he is doing anything illegal. The fraudster meets the victim, and must be able to act the part of a well-connected and experienced loan broker. He asks for payment in advance, which is normal for large loans.[citation needed] Then the loan gradually falls through in a plausible way, and the victim may end up being defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars or pounds, thinking only that the deal simply failed. These frauds may go unreported, either because the victim does not realize he has been cheated, or due to reluctance to admit the facts. Because of "non-disclosure clauses" which may have been included in the fraudulent contract, reporting of the scam may be delayed until the victim becomes certain he has been cheated.[citation needed]

The spam e-mails perpetrating these scams are often sent from Internet cafés equipped with satellite Internet. Recipient addresses and e-mail content are copied and pasted into a webmail interface using a standalone storage medium, such as a memory card. Many areas of Lagos, such as Festac, contain many cyber cafés that serve scammers; many cyber cafés seal their doors during afterhours, such as from 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM, so that scammers inside may work without fear of discovery.[23]

Nigeria also contains many businesses that provide false documents used in scams; after a scam involving a forged signature of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in summer 2005, Nigerian authorities raided a market in the Oluwole section of Lagos. The police seized thousands of Nigerian and non-Nigerian passports, 10,000 blank British Airways boarding passes, 10,000 United States money orders, customs documents, false university certificates, 500 printing plates, and 500 computers.[23]

During the courses of many schemes, scammers ask victims to supply bank account information. Usually this is a "test" devised by the scammer to gauge the victim's gullibility.[20]

Scammers often request that payments be made using a wire transfer service like Western Union and Moneygram. The reason given by the scammer usually relates to the speed at which the payment can be received and processed, allowing quick release of the supposed payoff. The real reason is that wire transfers and similar methods of payment are irreversible, untraceable and, because identification beyond knowledge of the details of the transaction is often not required, completely anonymous.[14]

Telephone numbers used by scammers tend to come from mobile phones. In Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) a scammer may purchase an inexpensive mobile phone and a pre-paid SIM card without submitting subscriber information. If the scammers believed they are being traced, they discard their mobile phones and purchase new ones.[14]

In Benin, Nigerians operate scams with Beninese cooperating in the schemes.[13]

Some crime syndicates employ fraudsters in the United States who conclude "deals" or threaten victims who try to leave deals.[24][25]

Common elements

Fake cheques

Fraudulent cheques and money orders are key elements in many advance-fee scams, such as auction/classified listing overpayment, lottery scams, inheritance scams, etc., and can be used in almost any scam when a "payment" to the victim is required to gain, regain or further solidify the victim's trust and confidence in the validity of the scheme.[26]

The use of cheques in a scam hinges on a US law (and common practice in other countries) concerning cheques: when an account holder presents a cheque for deposit or to cash, the bank must (or in other countries, usually) make the funds available to the account holder within 1–5 business days, regardless of how long it actually takes for the cheque to clear and funds to be transferred from the issuing bank.[27] The cheques clearing process normally takes 7–10 days and can in fact take up to a month when dealing with foreign banks. The time between the funds appearing as available to the account holder and the cheque clearing is known as the "float", during which time the bank could technically be said to have floated a loan to the account holder to be covered with the funds from the bank clearing the cheque.

The cheque given to the victim is typically counterfeit but drawn on a real account with real funds in it. With a piece of software like QuickBooks and/or pre-printed blank cheque stock, using the correct banking information, the scammer can easily print a cheque that is absolutely genuine-looking, passes all counterfeit tests, and may even clear the paying account if the account information is accurate and the funds are available. However, whether it clears or not, it eventually becomes apparent either to the bank or the account holder that the cheque is a forgery. This can be as little as three days after the funds are available if the bank supposedly covering the cheque discovers the cheque information is invalid, or it could take months for a business or individual to notice the fraudulent draft on their account. It has been suggested that in some cases the cheque is genuine — however the fraudster has a friend (or bribes an official) at the paying bank to claim it is a fake weeks or even months later when the physical cheque arrives back at the paying bank.

Regardless of the amount of time involved, once the cashing bank is alerted that the cheque is fraudulent, the transaction is reversed and the money removed from the victim's account. In many cases, this puts victims in debt to their banks as the victim has usually sent a large portion of the cheque by some non-reversible 'wire transfer' means (typically Western Union) to the scammer and, since more uncollected funds have been sent than funds otherwise present in the victim's account, an overdraft results.

Western Union/MoneyGram Wire Transfers

Western Union, Avenue de Choisy, Paris 13e

A central element of advance-fee fraud is that the transaction from the victim to the scammer must be untraceable and irreversible. Otherwise, the victim, once they become aware of the scam, can successfully retrieve their money and/or alert officials who can track the accounts used by the scammer.

Wire transfers via Western Union and MoneyGram are ideal for this purpose. The wire transfer, if sent internationally, cannot be cancelled or reversed, and the person receiving the money cannot be tracked. Other similar non-cancellable forms of payment include postal money orders and cashier's checks, but as wire transfer via Western Union or MoneyGram is the fastest method, it is the most common.

Anonymous communication

Since the scammer's operations must be untraceable to avoid identification, and because the scammer is often impersonating someone else, any communication between the scammer and his victim must be done through channels that hide the scammer's true identity. The following options in particular are widely used.

Bad English

Invariably the emails contain numerous spelling and grammar errors. This is sometimes deliberate and not necessarily the result of sloppiness or a lack of education on the part of the scammers[citation needed]. The bad English lulls the native English speaker or educated reader into a false sense of security. The victim is encouraged to think that he or she is superior to the scammer and even though the victim "knows" the email is a scam will still think he or she can outwit the "stupid" scammer if there is any danger at a later stage.

Web-based e-mail

Because many free e-mail services do not require valid identifying information, and also allow communication with many victims in a short span of time, they are the preferred method of communication for scammers. Some services go so far as to mask the sender's source IP address, making the scammer completely untraceable even to country of origin. Scammers can create as many accounts as they wish and often have several at a time. In addition, if e-mail providers are alerted to the scammer's activities and suspend the account, it is a trivial matter for the scammer to simply create a new account to resume scamming.

E-mail hijacking/friend scams

Screenshot of Firefox[28] phishing suspicious site warning

Some fraudsters hijack existing e-mail accounts and use them for advance-fee fraud purposes. The fraudsters e-mail associates, friends, and/or family members of the legitimate account owner in an attempt to defraud them.[29] This ruse generally requires the use of phishing or keylogger computer viruses to gain login information for the e-mail address.

Fax transmissions

Facsimile machines are commonly used tools of business, whenever a client requires a hard copy of a document. They can also be simulated using web services, and made untraceable by the use of prepaid phones connected to mobile fax machines or by use of a public fax machine such as one owned by a document processing business like FedEx Office/Kinko's. Thus, scammers posing as business entities often use fax transmissions as an anonymous form of communication. This is more expensive, as the prepaid phone and fax equipment cost more than e-mail, but to a skeptical victim it can be more believable.

SMS messages

Abusing SMS bulk senders such as WASPS, scammers subscribe to these services using fraudulent registration details and paying either via cash or stolen credit card details. They then send out masses of unsolicited SMS'es to victims stating they have won a competition/lottery/reward or like event and they have to contact somebody to claim their prize. Typically the details of the party to be contacted will be an equally untraceable email address or a virtual telephone number. These messages may be sent over a weekend when abuse staff at the service providers are not working, enabling the scammer to be able to abuse the services for a whole weekend.Even when traceable they give out long and winding procedure of procuring the reward (real/unreal) and that too with the impending huge cost of transportation and tax/duty charges.The origin of such SMS messages are often from fake websites/addresses.

A recent (mid 2011) innovation is the use of a Premium Rate 'call back' number (instead of a web site or email) in the SMS. On calling the number, the victim is first reassured that 'they are a winner' and then subjected to a long series of instructions on how to collect their 'winnings'. During the message there will be frequent instructions to 'ring back in the event of problems'. Needless to say the call is always 'cut off' just before the victim has the chance note all the details. Some victims call back multiple times in an effort to collect all the details. Needless to say, the scammer makes their money out of the fees charged for call.

Telecommunications relay services

Many scams use telephone calls to convince the victim that the person on the other end of the deal is a real, truthful person. The scammer, possibly impersonating a US citizen or other person of a nationality, or gender, other than their own, would arouse suspicion by telephoning the victim. In these cases, scammers use TRS, a US federally-funded relay service where an operator or a text/speech translation program acts as an intermediary between someone using an ordinary telephone and a deaf caller using TDD or other teleprinter device. The scammer may claim they are deaf, and that they must use a relay service. The victim, possibly drawn in by sympathy for a disabled caller, might be more susceptible to the fraud.

FCC regulations and confidentiality laws require that operators relay calls verbatim, and that they adhere to a strict code of confidentiality and ethics. Thus, no relay operator may judge the legality and/or legitimacy of a relay call, and must relay it without interference. This means the relay operator may not warn victims, even when they suspect the call is a scam. MCI said that about one percent of their IP Relay calls in 2004 were scams.[30]

Tracking phone-based relay services is relatively easy, so scammers tend to prefer Internet Protocol-based relay services such as IP Relay. In a common strategy, they bind their overseas IP address to a router or server located on US soil, allowing them to use US-based relay service providers without interference.

TRS is sometimes used to relay credit card information to make a fraudulent purchase with a stolen credit card. In many cases however, it is simply a means for the con artist to further lure the victim into the scam.

Fake websites

Though 419 scams are often perpetrated by e-mail alone, some scammers enhance believability of their offer by using a sham website. They create these sites to impersonate real commercial sites, such as eBay, PayPal, or a banking site like Bank of America or Natwest Bank for phishing. Others represent fictional companies or institutions to give the scam credibility.

Though phishing is a secondary interest of most scam operations, as the object of the scammer is to deceive the victim into sending the money through legitimate means, the use of websites for advance-fee fraud is common. For instance, a scammer may create a website for a fictional bank, then give the victim details to login to the site, where the victim sees the money the scammer has promised sitting in the account. The victim believes the scammer and sends the requested advance payments. Fake (or hijacked) websites are the centerpiece of false online storefront scams.

Another twist on scamming is where links are provided to real news sites covering events the scammer says are relevant to the transaction they propose. For instance, a scammer may use news of the death of a prominent government official as a backstory for a scam involving getting millions of dollars of the slain official's money out of the country. These are real websites covering legitimate news, but the scammer is usually not connected in any way with the events reported, and is simply using the story to gain the victim's sympathy.

Invitation to visit the country

Sometimes, victims are invited to a country to meet real or fake government officials. Some victims who do travel are instead held for ransom. Scammers may tell a victim that he or she does not need to get a visa or that the scammers will provide the visa.[31] If the victim does this, the scammers have the power to extort money from the victim.[32] Sometimes victims are ransomed or, as in the case of the 29 year old Greek George Makronalli who was lured to South Africa, killed.[33][34]

Followup scamming

Scammers recognise that their victim who has just been scammed is more likely to fall for scamming attempts than a random person. Often after a scam, the victim is contacted again by the scammer, representing himself as a law enforcement officer. The victim is informed that a group of criminals has been arrested and that they have recovered his money. To get the money back, the victim must pay a fee for processing or insurance purposes. Even after the victim has realised that he has been scammed, this follow up scam can be successful as the scammer represents himself as a totally different party yet knows details about the transactions. The realization that he has lost a large sum of money and the chance he might get it back often leads to the victim transferring even more money to the same scammer.[citation needed]


There are many variations on the most common stories, and also many variations on the way the scam works. The following are notable deviations from the standard Nigerian Letter scam, but still retain the core elements; the victim is deceived by some disproportionately large gain into sending an advance payment, which once made is irrecoverable.

Purchasing goods and services

A modern activity is advertising automobiles on websites. They list a (non-existent) high value car with a low price as bait to attract buyers eager to buy quickly. The scammer says "I am not in the country, but if you pay me first, a friend will drive the car around to you". The payment required may be the full price, or a deposit, but it would not be an insignificant fee. The victim never sees the car, as it does not exist. The scammers use e-mail only, as they know that the sound of their voice and their attitude will give them away as being high risk.

Another scheme involves advertising fake academic conferences and enticing academics to apply to present papers. It is a common practice that the conference subsidizes or pays for the air travel of academics who present papers at the conference, but does not pay for accommodation. One way the scammer baits the hopeful attendee is they offer free air travel to the victim, but only as long as they pre-pay for hotel accommodation. The scammer can give a variety of reasons that the accommodation must be pre-paid — primarily that they don't trust the victim will attend the conference unless he pays upfront.

Any goods or services may be used in the scam, but the idea is that the scammer baits the victim with a good deal, but the victim must pay upfront and electronically.

Vehicle Matching Service Scams

The scammer will typically browse large vehicle trading websites and call sellers who have recently advertised their vehicles for sale. They will claim to be calling from a "vehicle matching" company, always claiming that they have several interested buyers waiting to purchase their car, and can put the buyers in touch for a small upfront fee, with the promise that the fee will be returned in full if the vehicle does not sell. In reality however, there are usually no buyers, and the payments are never returned.[35]

Check cashing

Some schemes are based solely on conning the victim into cashing a counterfeit check. The scammer contacts the victim to interest them in a "work-at-home" opportunity, or asks them to cash a check or money order that for some reason cannot be redeemed locally. A recently-used cover story is that the perpetrator of the scam wishes the victim to work as a "mystery shopper", evaluating the service provided by MoneyGram or Western Union locations within major retailers such as Wal-Mart.[36] The scammer sends the victim a check or money order, the victim cashes it, sends the cash to the scammer via wire transfer, and the scammer disappears. Later the forgery is discovered and the bank transaction is reversed, leaving the victim liable for the balance. Schemes based solely on check cashing usually offer only a small part of the check's total amount, with the assurance that many more checks will follow; if the victim buys in to the scam and cashes all the checks, the scammer can win big in a very short period of time. Other scams such as overpayment usually result in smaller revenues for the scammer, but have a higher success rate as the scammer's request seems more believable.

Some check-cashing scammers use multiple victims at multiple stages of the scam. A victim in the US or other "safe" country such as the UK or Canada (often the country in which the cashing victim resides) is sometimes approached with an offer to fill out checks sent to them by the scammer and mail them to other victims who cash the check and wire the money to the scammer. The check mailer is usually promised a cut of the money from the scammer; this usually never occurs, and in fact the check mailer is often conned into paying for the production and shipping costs of the checks. The check information has either been stolen or fictionalized and the checks forged. The victim mailing the check is usually far easier to track (and prosecute) than the scammer, so when the checks turn up as fraudulent, the one mailing them usually ends up not only facing federal bank fraud and conspiracy charges, but liability for the full amount of the fraudulent checks. Because the check mailer is taking the fall, the scammer is even less likely to be caught, which makes it a popular variation of the scam for scammers in nations with tougher anti-fraud laws.

A variation of the check-cashing scheme involves owners of vacation rentals. The scammer expresses interest in renting the unit for a much higher than normal rate, usually for an upcoming honeymoon, business trip, etc. The scammer also offers to pay all fees "up front," as soon as the unsuspecting unit owner agrees to the windfall rental. Eventually a very official looking money order/cashier's check arrives. About this time the scammer requests that a portion of the rental fee be returned for some compelling called off, death in the family, business failure, etc. Due to the supposed crises, it is requested that most of the rental fee be returned via wire transfer. The unit owner is encouraged to retain "a fair amount" to compensate him for his time. The wire transfer is sent, only to find out later that the official looking check was indeed fake and the entire amount is charged back to the unit owner by his bank.

Romance angle

A recent variant is the Romance Scam, which is a money-for-romance angle. The con artist approaches the victim on an online dating service, an Instant messenger, or a social networking site. The scammer claims an interest in the victim, and posts pictures of an attractive person (not themselves). The scammer uses this communication to gain confidence, then asks for money. The con artist may claim to be interested in meeting the victim, but needs cash to book a plane, hotel room, or other expenses. In other cases, they claim they're trapped in a foreign country and need assistance to return, to escape imprisonment by corrupt local officials, to pay for medical expenses due to an illness contracted abroad, and so on. The scammer may also use the confidence gained by the romance angle to introduce some variant of the original Nigerian Letter scheme, such as saying they need to get money or valuables out of the country and offer to share the wealth, making the request for help in leaving the country even more attractive to the victim. In a newer version of the scam, the con artist claims to have 'information' about the fidelity of a person's significant other, which they will share for a fee. This information is garnered through social networking sites by using search parameters such as 'In a relationship' or 'Married'. Anonymous e-mails are first sent to attempt to verify receipt, then a new web based e-mail account is sent along with directions on how to retrieve the information. A scam from Malaysia involves a woman alleging to be half American half Asian with a Father who is American but has passed away. After communication begins the target is immediately asked for money to pay for her sick mother's hospital bills. Also requests are made to help her get back to America. In every case these scammers never have a webcam so you can't verify that they are the one truly in the picture they have sent, and offers to send a camera to them by postal mail (instead of money to buy it) are met with hostility. Domestic scams involve meeting someone on an online match making service. The scammer initiates contact with their target who is out of the area and requests money for bus fare. The scam can get very elaborate and the scammer is very convincing. They don't have a webcam and have excuses for why they do not give address and telephone number. One "woman" scamming had money sent to a generic name like Joseph Hancock alleging she could not collect the money due to losing her international passport. After sending the money the victim is given bad news that they were robbed on the way to the bus stop by two men and the victim feels compelled to send more money. The person never visits their victim and is willing to chat with their victim through a chat client as long as their victim is foolish enough to believe the scam and send more money.

Lottery scam

The lottery scam involves fake notices of lottery wins. The winner is usually asked to send sensitive information such as name, residential address, occupation/position, lottery number etc. to a free e-mail account which is at times untraceable or without any link. The scammer then notifies the victim that releasing the funds requires some small fee (insurance, registration, or shipping). Once the victim sends the fee, the scammer invents another fee.

Much like the various forms of overpayment fraud detailed above, a new variant of the lottery scam involves fake or stolen checks being sent to the 'winner' of the lottery (these checks representing a part payment of the winnings). The winner is more likely to assume the win is legitimate, and thus more likely to send the fee (which he does not realize is an advance fee). The check and associated funds are flagged by the bank when the fraud is discovered, and debited from the victim's account.

In 2004 a variant of the lottery scam appeared in the United States. Fraud artists using the scheme call victims on telephones; a scammer tells a victim that a government has given them a grant and that they must pay an advance fee, usually around $250, to receive the grant.[37]

Charity scams

The scammer poses as a charitable organization soliciting donations to help the victims of a natural disaster, terrorist attack (such as the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack), regional conflict, or epidemic. Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami were popular targets of scammers perpetrating charity scams; other more timeless scam charities purport to be raising money for cancer, AIDS or Ebola virus research, children's orphanages (the scammer pretends to work for the orphanage or a non-profit associated with it), or impersonates charities such as the Red Cross or United Way. The scammer asks for donations, often linking to online news articles to strengthen their story of a funds drive. The scammer's victims are charitable people who believe they are helping a worthy cause and expect nothing in return. Once sent, the money is gone and the scammer often disappears, though many attempt to keep the scam going by asking for a series of payments. The victim may sometimes find themselves in legal trouble after deducting their supposed donations from their income taxes. United States tax law states that charitable donations are only deductible if made to a qualified non-profit organization.[38] The scammer may tell the victim their donation is deductible and provide all necessary proof of donation, but the information provided by the scammer is fictional, and if audited, the victim faces stiff penalties as a result of the fraud. Though these scams have some of the highest success rates especially following a major disaster, and are employed by scammers all over the world, the average loss per victim is less than other fraud schemes. This is because, unlike scams involving a large expected payoff, the victim is far less likely to borrow money to donate or donate more than they can spare.

In a related variant, the scammer poses as a terminally ill mother, poor university student, or other down-on-their-luck person and simply begs the victim for money for college tuition, to sponsor their children, or a similar ruse. The money, they say, will be repaid plus interest by some third party at a later date (often these third parties are some fictitious agency of the Nigerian government, or the scammer themselves once a payment from someone else is made available to them). Once the victim starts paying money to the scammer, the scammer tells the victim that additional money is needed for unforeseen expenses, similar to most other variants; in the case of the ill mother, the children will fall ill as well and require money for a doctor's care and medicine (many scammers go as far as to say that as the sponsor of the children, the victim is legally liable for such costs), where the student might claim that a dormitory fire destroyed everything they own.

Fraud recovery scams

This variant targets former victims of scams. The scammer contacts the victim saying that their organization can track and apprehend the scammer and recover the money lost by the victim, for a price. Alternatively, the scammer may say that a fund has been set up by the Nigerian government to compensate victims of 419 fraud, and all that is required is proof of loss (which usually includes personal information) and a processing and handling fee to release the amount of the claim. The scammer is counting on the victim's dire need to recover their lost money, as well as the fact that they have fallen victim before and are therefore susceptible to such scams. Often, these scams are perpetrated by the same scammer who conned the victim in the first place, as an attempt to ensure the scammer gets every penny possible from the victim. Alternatively, the original scammer "sells" a list of the people he has scammed but who have ceased contact to another scammer who runs the recovery scam. Sometimes the scammer impersonates the foremost "fraud related crime-fighters" in Nigeria, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), which not only adds credibility to the scam, but tarnishes the reputation of the EFCC once this second scam is discovered.[14][39]

Babysitting and Au-Pair scams

Another variation of the advance payment type of scam involves recruiting unsuspecting individuals for non-existent babysitting, nanny, or au-pair employment. In one variation a prospective employee may be given an "advance" on wages; in another the victim may be asked to verify pricing and ultimately purchase items for the scammer's non-existent child. Victims are often asked to submit résumés and references and jump through other hoops, cementing in the victim's mind that the employer must be legitimate and the high wages offered are real. Focusing the victim's thinking on proving their worthiness for employment consideration serves to distract the victim from considering whether the offer itself is worthy of replying to.

Pet scams

Another such scam is based on the adoption of a puppy or an exotic pet such as parrots or reptiles. A scammer first posts an advertisement or sets up a web page offering puppies for adoption or for sale at a ridiculously low price, most often using stolen pictures from other websites and respectable breeders. When a victim responds to the ad and questions the lowered price or the reason for giving up such an expensive pet, the scammer first explains that they have recently moved to Nigeria or Cameroon from the US for work (usually volunteer work as missionaries or a UN transfer) or for studies, and claims either to have no time to properly care for the pet, that the weather has had such a terrible toll on the pet, or that they have too many pets to care for- often asking for follow-up holiday photos of the pet and a continued line of communication so that the victim does not suspect a scam.

The scammer and victim exchange a few e-mails to build trust. They may even send (fake or stolen) photo IDs to further prove their credibility. Once it is established that the victim offers the right home for the pet, the scammer offers to ship the pet, and requests the victim only pay for shipping, or comes off the original price substantially to seem legitimate. The victim, who now has an emotional attachment to the pet, feels obligated and even happy to do so, as shipping is a small price to pay compared to the pet's full price at a shop or breeder. The scammer requests Western Union or MoneyGram (untraceable and irreversible) to keep the deal going in a timely fashion as the pet is ready to go to a new home and the victim is now excited. However, after wiring money, the victim does not receive the pet (as it does not exist), and if the victim does hear from the scammer again it is only for more money (to get animal out of airport holding/quarantine, "refundable" life-insurance fees or to pay unexpected vet bills that have come up) until the victim stops responding. This is extremely common currently in Nigeria and Cameroon.[40]

Another type of scam that is beginning to appear is the selling of a pet by the victim. The scammer typically contacts the victim by a newspaper ad or through an online service with the aid of a call-relay service. After this call has been made, communication is done through email. As mentioned above, trust is built between the scammer and the victim by emails. The structure of the scam is that the seller of the animal (victim) will have the asking price of the animal plus the shipping price sent to him/her through a fake check. The victim will then deposit the check then wire the funds to the scammer through a Western Credit Union location. The "shipper" is often non-existent and described as being "private". Once the money has been wired, the scammer wins.


The popular online classifieds website, Craigslist, has been plagued with scammers using advance-fee fraud and similar techniques, usually involving fake checks, to con people out of their money. Sometimes many scammers contact a person who is either attempting to buy or sell items on Craigslist, and attempt to perpetrate exactly the same scam. Many of the same elements as the Nigerian 419 scams are used often on Craigslist, including persons conducting transactions from outside the country, sending realistic looking bank checks, sending more money than is owed, and requesting that money be wired back to the scammer.[41][42]

Another advance-fee method that has been used recently on Craigslist is where the scammer will contact someone selling an item and ask them to ship the item to a location outside the US, then provide the tracking number for the shipped item in exchange for payment. The seller then sends the item and provides the tracking number, after which the scammer never provides payment. Sometimes the scammer will approach someone offering a room or apartment for rent and pose as someone moving in to their area from overseas. They will create a scenario in which they are pressured to secure the room in advance, and ask if they can secure their occupancy with a deposit. The deposit check that they send will be a fake check for far more than the amount requested for a deposit. When the check arrives, the scammer will ask for a refund of the difference between the check they sent and the agreed upon amount. The fake check will bounce and the victim has lost whatever money they "refunded" to the scammer.

A similar scam exists on the rental model, particularly in the United Kingdom - the scammer posts an ad on a classifieds site such as Craigslist or Gumtree for an apartment or house for rent (and the rent is far below the normal market rate) with a fantastic description and pictures taken from other adverts or other websites. The victim contacts the scammer in order to secure a viewing, but is told that in order to do so they must go to a Western Union outlet, do a money transfer to a relative for the amount of the deposit and then provide a scanned receipt. Ostensibly this is to prove that the victim can afford the deposit before they view the apartment, and they'll get the money back after the viewing. But in actuality the property may or may not actually exist, and the receipt allows the scammer to collect the funds without any viewing ever taking place.

Alternatively, the scammer forwards a rental application, or asks for information typically given on a rental application, such as driver's license number, bank account information, Social Security Number, etc.

Bona vacantia

In the United Kingdom, bona vacantia is ownerless property which has passed to the Crown. In England and Wales (other than the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall) this property is administered by the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor's Department. Fraudulent emails and letters, claiming to be from this department, have been reported which inform the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a legacy but requiring payment of a fee before sending more information or releasing the money.[43]

Fake job offer

A new scam targets people who have posted their resumes on job sites. The scammer sends a letter with a falsified company logo. The job offer usually indicates exceptional salary and benefits and requests that the victim needs a "work permit" for working in the country and includes the address of a (fake) "government official" to contact. The "government official" then proceeds to fleece the victim by extracting fees from the unsuspecting user for the work permit and other fees. A variant of the job scam recruits freelancers seeking legitimate gigs (such as in editing or translation), then offers "pre-payment" for their work.

Many legitimate (or at least fully registered) companies work on a similar basis, using this method as their primary source of earnings. Some modelling and escort agencies will tell applicants that they have a number of clients lined up, but that they require a "registration fee" of sorts to account for processing and marketing expenses, or so it is claimed, which is paid in a number of untraceable methods, most often by cash; once the fee is paid, the applicant is informed that the client has cancelled, and thereafter they never contact the applicant again.

Rental scams

A foreign student, doctor, etc. contacts a landlord seeking accommodation. Once the terms are negotiated, a forged check is forwarded for a greater amount than negotiated. Then some emergency comes up where some part of the amount is requested to be urgently wired back. The reverse may also happen, where a scammer posts an accommodation, and requests monies be wired as deposit. The victim arrives to discover they have no accommodation.

Attorney Collection Scams

Attorneys that do collections often practice based on contingency. The attorney is contacted by a scammer posing as a representative of a large international firm headquartered in another country. The scammer states that the company has no legal representation in the attorney's state, and needs to collect a debt from a company in that state. Scammer requests attorney email standard retainer agreement. This is commonly done, so attorney emails agreement, scammer signs and returns, and informs attorney that because legal representation has been obtained, the debtor has agreed to pay the debt by the end of the month. Red flag #1 is when the scammer requests attorney not contact the debtor company because the client wishes to maintain a working relationship with the debtor, saving litigation as a last resort. The attorney is instructed to contact the debtor only if the promised payment isn't made on the promised date. On the promised date, the huge check is delivered to the attorney, who deposits in the law firm trust account, keeps the attorney's contingency fee, and sends the rest to the scammer. Red flag #2 is that the scammer will request the money be wired to a foreign country, or insists on quick remittance. Sophisticated scammers will file articles of organization with both states, build web sites, and purchase prepaid cell phones with local phone numbers with scammers posing as both client and debtor. All of that can be done cheaply and easily on the internet. Similar scams involving "back child support" or other interpersonal debts have also been reported.


Monetary loss estimates

Estimates of the total losses due to the scam vary widely. Although the "success rate" of the scam is hard to gauge, some experienced 419 scammers get one or two interested replies for every thousand messages. Stephanie Nolen of The Globe and Mail said that an experienced scammer can expect to make at least several thousand dollars per successful scam letter.[44]

Since 1995, the United States Secret Service has been involved in combating these schemes. The organization does not investigate unless the monetary loss is in excess of 50,000 US Dollars. However, very few arrests and prosecutions have been made due to the international aspect of this crime.[citation needed]

In 2006, a report by a research group concluded that Internet scams in which criminals use information they trick from gullible victims and commonly strip their bank accounts cost the United Kingdom economy £150 million per year, with the average victim losing £31,000.[45]

Between May 1992 and July 1994, a San Diego-based businessman, James Adler, was swindled out of $5.2 million by a Nigeria-based advance fee scam. In 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's findings that (1) various Nigerian government officials (including a governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) had been directly or indirectly involved; (2) the Nigerian government officials could be sued in U.S. courts under the "commercial activity" exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act; and (3) Adler's case was completely barred by the doctrine of unclean hands because he had knowingly entered into a contract with the criminal purpose of helping Nigerian officials embezzle funds from their own government.[46]

Nelson Sakaguchi, a director at the Brazilian bank Banco Noroeste, transferred hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to Chief Emmanuel Nwude, Nigeria's most accomplished scammer.[47] The scam led to at least two murders, including that of one of the scammers, Mr. Bless Okereke. The scam was the third biggest in banking history, after Nick Leeson's activities at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank during the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.[47]

In 2008, an Oregon woman, Janella Spears, lost $400,000 to a Nigerian advance-fee fraud scam, after an e-mail told her she had inherited money from her long-lost grandfather. Her curiosity was piqued because she actually had a grandfather whom her family had lost touch with, and whose initials matched those given in the e-mail. Spears sent hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of more than two years, despite her family, bank staff and law enforcement officials all urging her to stop.[48][49]

Physical harm or death

  • Some victims have hired private investigators in Nigeria or have personally travelled to Nigeria, without ever retrieving their money. There are cases of victims being unable to cope with the losses and committing suicide.[50] In November 2003, Leslie Fountain, a senior technician at Anglia Polytechnic University in England, set himself on fire after falling victim to a scam; Mr. Fountain died of his injuries.[51] In 2006 an American living in South Africa hanged himself in Togo after being defrauded by a Ghanaian 419 con man.[52] In 2007, a Chinese student at the University of Nottingham killed herself after she discovered that she fell for a lottery scam.[53]
  • In February 2003, Jiří Pasovský, a 72 year-old scam victim from the Czech Republic, shot and killed 50-year old Michael Lekara Wayid, an official at the Nigerian embassy in Prague, and injured another person, after the Nigerian Consul General explained he could not return $600,000 that Pasovský had lost to a Nigerian scammer.[47][54][55][56][57]


  • Osamai Hitomi, a Japanese businessman was lured to Johannesburg, South Africa in a 419 scam and kidnapped on 26 September 2008. The kidnappers took him to Alberton, south of Johannesburg and demanded a $5 million ransom from his family. Seven people were arrested.[58]
  • On 23 September 2008, Kenth Sadaaki Suzuki, a Swedish businessman, was lured to South Africa and kidnapped. He was taken to a house in Rosettenville in Johannesburg and robbed of all his belongings. Thereafter a ransom of €20,000 was demanded from his family. Two people were arrested. They are also linked to the kidnappings of three American citizens and possibly other similar cases.[59]
  • On 2 June 1996 in Lomé, Togo, 419ing kidnappers held a Swedish businessman for $500,000. Swedish police and the kidnappers negotiated before the kidnappers released the man on 12 June 1996.[60]
  • From September 1995 to April 1997, conmen in Nigeria held at least eight Americans against their will. In 1996 the U.S. embassy helped repatriate ten Americans who fell victim to 419 schemes.[60]
  • Joseph Raca, a former mayor of Northampton, England, was kidnapped by scammers in Johannesburg, South Africa in July 2001. The captors released Raca after they became nervous.[61]
  • Dănuţ Tetrescu, a Romanian who flew from Bucharest to Johannesburg to meet with con men in the Soweto area of Johannesburg, was kidnapped in 1999 and held for $500,000.[62]


  • 29-year old George Makronalli, a Greek man, was murdered in South Africa in December 2004 after his family refused to pay a ransom.[33]
  • Kjetil Moe, a Norwegian businessman, was reported missing and ultimately killed after a trade with Nigerian scammers in Johannesburg, South Africa (September 1999).[63]
  • On May 20, 1995, the U.S. Embassy in Lagos stated that James Breaux, an American who resided in Switzerland, was murdered in Nigeria and found dead in Sulere, Lagos.[64]
  • One American was murdered in Nigeria in June 1995 after being lured by a 419 scam.[65]
  • From 1994 to April 1997, 419 scammers murdered 15 people in total.[60]

Emotional harm

Victims, in addition to having lost large sums of money, often also lose their ability to trust. The 419 Eater website says, "Although there is no serious physical injury, many victims of con-men speak of the betrayal as the psychological equivalent of rape". Victims may blame themselves for what has happened, resulting in overwhelming guilt and shame. If the victim has borrowed money from others to pay the scammer, these feelings are magnified. Further compounding the problem is the public opinion of scam letters and scam victims. Scam letters are often viewed as humorously moronic, and the people who fall for them equally so. The victim, having lost money through the scammer's manipulation of payment methods such as money orders or checks, may become distrustful of the financial system. Scam victims may stop trusting and giving money to churches, legitimate charities and, in the extreme, even service providers such as their electric company because of their requests for money. Some victims commit suicide.[50][51]

In other cases, the victim continues to contact the scammer after being shown proof that they are being scammed or even being convicted of crimes relating to the scam, having been drawn so deeply into the web of deception that their trust in what the scammer tells them overrides everything else in their life.[66] Such victims are easy prey for future scams, digging themselves even deeper into financial and legal trouble.


In 2004, fifty-two suspects were arrested in Amsterdam after an extensive raid.[67] An Internet service provider noticed the increased e-mail traffic. None were jailed or fined, due to lack of evidence. They were released in the week of 12 July 2004.

On 8 November 2004, Nick Marinellis of Sydney, Australia, was sentenced to 4 13 to 5 14 years for sending Nigerian 419 e-mails.[68]

In October 2006 the Amsterdam police launched Operation Apollo to fight Internet fraud scams operated by West Africans and notably Nigerians. Following this investigation police have arrested eighty suspects, most of them from Nigeria, and seized from their homes lists of e-mail addresses, as well as fake documents. On 16 June 2007, 111 people were arrested for being in the Netherlands illegally and suspicion of fraud, although their implication with the e-mail scams is yet unknown.[69]

Authorities in Nigeria have been slow to take action and for many years nothing was done. Nigeria has a reputation for criminals being able to avoid convictions through bribery and rumours abounded of official connivance in the scams.[70] In 2003 however the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was charged with tackling the problem.[71] A couple of success stories including convictions in a large 419 case were reported in 2005.[72]

Edna Fiedler, 44, of Olympia, Washington, on 25 June 2008, pleaded guilty in a Tacoma court and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and 5 years of supervised release or probation in an Internet $1 million "Nigerian check scam." She conspired to commit bank, wire and mail fraud, against US citizens, specifically using the Internet, and by having an accomplice ship her counterfeit checks and money orders from Lagos, Nigeria, last November. Fiedler shipped out $ 609,000 fake check and money orders when arrested and prepared to send additional $1.1 million counterfeit materials. The US Postal Service recently intercepted counterfeit checks, lottery tickets and eBay overpayment schemes with a face value of $2.1 billion.[73][74]

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[75] and had a list of the e-mail addresses of 55,000 potential victims in their possession.[76]

In October 2009, the Nigerian government announced that they are launching "Operation Eagle Claw", a joint effort with Microsoft to apprehend Nigerian 419 scammers.[75]

Victim becoming a criminal

Victims of the fraud sometimes fall directly into crime by borrowing or stealing money to pay the advance fees, believing an early payday is imminent. Credit-card fraud, check kiting, and embezzlement are among the crimes committed to pay the advances, with an expectation of having the money to repay the unauthorized loans.

  • Former Alcona County (Michigan) Treasurer Thomas A. Katona was sentenced to 9–14 years for his embezzlement of more than US$1.2 million in county funds in a Nigerian fraud scheme, which represented 25% of the county's budget for 2006.[77]
  • Robert Andrew Street,[78] a Melbourne-based financial adviser, who fleeced his clients for over AU$1 million which he sent to the scammers in the hope of receiving US$65 million in return. Eventually the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigated the victim, who had now become a con man himself.
  • A bookkeeper for the Michigan law firm[79] Olsman Mueller & James who in 2002 emptied the company bank account of US$2.1 million in expectation of a US$4.5 million payout.
  • John W. Worley, a Massachusetts psychotherapist, fell for a Nigerian scam and was convicted of taking money under false pretenses, his case being such that The New Yorker dubbed him The Perfect Mark in a headline.[80]
  • According to Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant, Mark Whitacre defrauded Archer Daniels Midland, a food products manufacturer for which he was a division president, embezzling US$9 million during the same period of time that he was acting as an informant for the FBI in a price fixing scheme that ADM was involved in. His illegal activities in trying to procure funds for payment of his supposed Nigerian benefactors cost him his immunity in the price-fixing scandal, according to Eichenwald. James Lieber, author of Rats in the Grain and an attorney, also wrote a book about Whitacre in which he disagreed with Eichenwald's conclusions about Whitacre and the Nigerian scam.[81][82][83]
  • In 2008, Georg Weiner, a German businessman was sentenced to 4 years in jail for fraud. He promised to save the professional team handball club TUSEM Essen from financial difficulties with the fictional money that turned out to be part of several advance fee fraud schemes. Besides the money that he himself may have lost, Weiner also made the then club manager pay $31000 to the scammers. When the money did not materialize, the club lost its licence and was forcibly relegated to the third division.[84][85][86]
  • In 2007, US Navy Lieutenant Milton Guy was sentenced to 28 months in prison, $14,000 in fines, and dismissal from the Navy after he was court martialed for stealing $140,000 from the safe aboard his San Diego-based ship in order to pay a Nigerian scammer.[87]

Scam baiting

Various groups and individuals have engaged against "419" frauds by making scammers lose their time or some amount of money.[88] One widely propagated report of such a scam baiting involved an American who identified himself as "James T. Kirk" to a Nigerian completely unaware of the Star Trek television series.[89]

Terms used by 419-scammers

These terms are common words in the Nigerian pidgin English.

Fall mugu (to)
To be fooled, to become victim of advance-fee fraud
Flash of account
Cause a victim's bank account to temporarily show a large credit (which the bank reverses when they discover its false origins) to convince the victim the deal is legitimate.
Scheme or script of an advance-fee fraud, e.g., the late dictator format, the next of kin format, the lottery format...
Guyman, guy
Con artist engaged in advance-fee fraud
Jokeman, Joker
A scam-baiter
An investment scam involving a line of men's luxury clothing based in Beverly Hills, California
Maga, mugu, mugun, mahi, magha,[23] mahee, mayi, mayee, mgbada
Victim of advance-fee fraud ("Mugu" means "fool"—often used as an insult by scam-baiters)
Method of funds transfer;[90]
Oga or Chairman
Owner of the job, Catcher
Con artist who makes first contact with the victim, then passes him to another scammer to finish
An illegal activity
Yahoo millionaire,[91] yahoo boy
[92] Scammers
Yahoo Yahoo
Someone who cons through e-mail, particularly through a Yahoo! address

Popular culture references

  • In the 2007 Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score, Professor Farnsworth falls for a Lottery scam after he thought he'd won the lottery by giving away his personal details on the Internet. Later, Nixon's Head falls for a 'sweepstakes' letter by the same scammers, while Zoidberg is taken by an advance-fee fraud.
  • In the BBC program The Real Hustle broadcast in the United Kingdom, the hustlers demonstrated the 419 Scam to the hidden cameras in the 'High Stakes' series of the show. The hustle involved claims of moving £500,000 to the victims' bank account from Sierra Leone but the victims needed to pay £5,000 for the paperwork in exchange for a bogus-bouncing check with the promise that they can keep 20% (£100,000) of the funds, which never materialises.
  • Nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot has written a song (Message No. 419) about the 419 scam on his debut album Nerdcore Rising.
  • In the HBO comedy series, Flight of the Conchords episode The New Cup, the band's manager, Murray, uses the band's emergency funds for an investment with a Nigerian, Mr. Nigel Soladu, who promises to offer "1000% profit." However, it turns out that Nigel Soladu is a real person and the investment offer is legitimate. The band receives a 1000% profit, which they use to get bailed out of jail.
  • In an episode of NBC series The Office in which Michael Scott tries to sell his subordinates on what he does not realize to be a pyramid scheme, Toby Flenderson asks, "Didn't you lose a lot of money on that other investment? The email?", to which Michael replies, "You know what Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the freaking country! Okay?"
  • In The Sun Cow episode of the Nickelodeon TV series, Back at the Barnyard, Otis, Pig and Abby received an e-mail from a Nigerian prince requesting for help, to which Abby replies with the farmer's credit card number and stating that the Internet does not lie.
  • In a 2009 episode of A&E documentary Intervention, a man habitually gives his family's money away to 419 scammers.
  • Two songs promoting advance fee fraud are popular in Nigeria: "I Go Chop Your Dollar - 419 Song" from Osuofia in London with the chorus "419 is just a game, you are the loser, I am the winner",[93] and "Maga Don Pay" (The victims pay) by Kelly Hansome, with the chorus Maga don pay, shout hallelujah. In response to this song, 9 R&B and rap artists (Banky W., Bez, Cobhams, MI, Modele, Omawumi, Rooftop MCs, The Wordsmith) released the song "Maga No Need Pay". The lyrics and the chorus Maga no need pay for me to buy correct motor, for me to take make my dough explain to the youngsters that they can make a good living and that they will help their country by staying away from advance fee fraud.
  • Fela! The Musical makes several references to code 419.
  • One of the series featured in webcomic Irregular Webcomic! stars the Nigerian Finance Minister.[94]
  • In the television series Sit Down, Shut Up, the teacher Stuart Proszakian sends money to a Nigerian Scam despite the other teachers' warnings. But at the end it turns out there really was a Nigerian Prince, and thanks Stuart for the donation.
  • The Residents included a song called "My Nigerian Friend" in their 2008 multimedia production The Bunny Boy. "He said that he was hiding from the government, And said that he was dying and had to find a friend, He offered me some money, if he could use my name, I told him I liked bunnies, then he went away."
  • A segment of the 2008 This American Life episode Enforcers discusses scammers from Nigeria and a group of activists that try to scam the scammers. [95].
  • In the 2011 episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled Oh Honey, a gullible cousin played by Katy Perry remarks, "Maybe I should feel weird about giving the guy my social security number, but the guy is a Nigerian Prince!"[96]

See also

- On October 1ST 2011, A team of Nigerian citizens launched an online campaign to show case 419 reasons to love Nigeria, to ensure the country is not associated with the sins of just a few. They put all their entries on this site here


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