The Internet offers consumers and businesses a global marketplace. But unscrupulous individuals also recognize the potentials of cyberspace. The same scams and frauds that have been conducted by mail and phone can now be found on the World Wide Web and in email, and these cyber scams are growing. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between reputable online sellers and criminals who use the Internet to rob people. One of the most infamous scam is the "Nigerian letter. " Nigerian scam letters or 419s appear in email boxes all over the world. They offer opportunity, adventure, travel, and an abundance of wealth. If you receive an unsolicited email seeking your assistance, for which you will receive a large sum of money, don't believe it. This is almost certainly a version of the Nigerian or 419 scam. You can protect yourself by learning how to recognize the danger signs of such scams.
Keywords: Fraud, Nigerian Scam, 419 scam, Internet Fraud, Internet Crime
The internet permeates our lives in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago. It is now intrinsic to social and commercial interactions and the provision of information in ever expanding areas such as education and business. Unfortunately, the Internet is not free from scams and frauds. Some of the scams and frauds are specifically designed to take advantage of the types of interactions occurring on the Internet (Barron, 2006). Most people with e-mail accounts have seen the messages in their inbox. The subject line reads, "Urgent Business Request," and in the body of the message a seemingly desperate person asks the recipient to help transfer money out of their country and into the U.S. The message, in broken English, is sprinkled with words like "Top secret," "trapped funds," "utterly confidential," and promises a cut of the funds in return. Most people who get these emails know it's a common scam referred to as the "Nigerian e-mail scam," "419 scam." or "Advance Fee Fraud," But others are still falling for the old trick, and it's costing them hundreds and even thousands of dollars. The number of individuals falling for the scam in the U.S. is steadily increasing, with over 55,400 lodging complaints in 2005 or at least receiving an e-mail that appeared to be a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That's almost three times the amount received in 2002, which was just over 21,600 (Carothers, 2006). The year 2005 marked the first time that wire transfers were a predominant way scammers collected money. In 2005 consumers lost $14 million to Internet scams, up from almost $6 million in 2004, according to the National Fraud Information Center (Holmes, 2006). Internet scams have been around since the Internet's creation. But as the information superhighway grows and becomes more complex, so do online scams.
NIGERIAN FRAUD SCAM: BACKGROUND
In 1588, various Englishmen were persuaded that a wealthy fellow countrymen had been imprisoned by Phillip II of Spain (Zuckoff, 2005). The investor that paid the prisoner's ransom would be amply rewarded financially, as well as getting the prisoner's beautiful and concerned young daughter in marriage. Individuals who accepted the offer paid for one failed rescue attempt after another, with the fictitious prisoner continuing to languish in his non-existent dungeon, always just one more bribe away from being released. This became know as the Spanish Prisoner Scam and is one of the earlier versions of the Nigerian fraud scams. In fact the Spanish Prisoner Scam was the basis of a 1997 movie title "The Spanish Prisoner," written and directed by David Mamet and it tells the story of the elaborate fraud (Mamet, 1999).
Nigerian fraud scams (aka "419 scams" after the Nigerian penal code address that addresses this kind of fraud) have been around since the 1970s when money was swindled the old-fashioned way, and con artists had to lick stamps and send letters. …