* The scam artists always begin with an urgent tone and a specific
deadline. "We will have the money wired within 7 working days,
so we must act quickly" or "I must have this transaction
completed by the end of the month before such and such happens. I
will do my part and I will be depending upon you to do your part.
Remember this is a business transaction..."
* They will use compliments and flattery to lull you into a false
sense of security. Some will use a tragic situation to make you feel
sorry for them. "I just got out of the hospital for a liver
condition". One woman pleaded with me. All she needed was $890
to pay for an kidney operation for her son. An obvious scam. (Where
can one get an operation like that for such a bargain?) It's always
about the money they can extract from you, in whatever manner they
can do it. Playing on your sympathies is just one of the gambits.
* The letters are generally sent by a supposed
Prince, a Chief, a Dr., wife of a General, a Barrister, Solicitor,
Lawyer or a Bank Official. Or the letter writer is the relative of a
supposed prince, a Chief, a Dr...well, you get the picture.
* They will want everything to be kept confidential. Lies and
greed are cousins. And these lies breed in the dark. They want to
isolate you. Strict secrecy. They don't want you to talk to a
lawyer, financial advisor, relative, business partner or spouse.
Plus, if the truth be known, you don't want to talk to anyone else
either, because deep down you know that something just ain't right
and you feel a bit giddy thinking that this just might be real.
Greed or need has kicked in and you are blinded, hoping against hope
that the business proposal is true. Some victims are so secretive
that they give retirement money to the scam artist and their spouse
doesn't know what's happened -- until it's too late.
* Everything about the business proposal is said to be "safe
and reliable". Or so they state. I wonder who they are talking
about when they say that the entire business transaction is
"100% Risk Free".
* Guilt and shame are the main tools used by scam artists. Scam
artists set the tone by calling the business proposal a
"partnership". They will try to use this "guilt
tool" when sharing how much they have done on their end to make
the business transaction work. He sold his car. He mortgaged his
home. He took a large loan from a dear friend. Of course, none of
this verifiable. But these stories are designed to tug at your heart
strings and designed to make you feel guilty hoping that this will
be the way he can get you to do your part in the partnership -- give
him some of your hard earned money. Tell him that you need to call
your travel agent to book a "guilt trip".
* Scam artists would love for you to travel to their home turf.
Once you're there the "bait and switch" happens.
Extenuating circumstances and delays cause them to demand the
payment of more money from you before the millions of dollars can be
released into your account ("The government didn't informs us
of the need for a particular document, which costs an additional
$3000"). You pay and then wait and wait, until you run out of
money or patience. They figure that since you have already paid a
lot of money to get to Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Atlanta, Dallas,
London, Amsterdam, Spain, or Toronto -- you will probably call back
home and convince "Uncle Bob" to wire you a few thousand
dollars to take care of the final document. And, of course, you'll
promise "Uncle Bob" that you'll give him double or triple
his money once you are fabulously wealthy!
* They will sprinkle religious content in their emails and phone
calls -- "I know that we will need $2000 to pay for a
particular document, but my pastor told me that he will take care of
that fee." -- "I am confident that God has brought us
together." -- "As a Christian, I want to make sure
that..." -- "May God bless you and your family" --
"May Allah be with you" -- "You can receive these
funds as long as you will remain honest to me till the end for this
important business trusting in you and believing in God that you
will never let me down either now or in future." -- Click
here to read quite a few "religious" scams.
* They will probably make the first 2-3 minute telephone call to
establish contact, but then will want you to initiate the rest of
the calls. Generally these scam artists have a pay-per-minute cell
phone that is used for these scams. Once you get them on the line
they will use their verbal skills for as long as you let them --
with gusts up to 120 mph. It has been reported by some victims that
they have racked up quite a telephone bill before realizing that
they have been engaged in a fraudulent business proposal.
* If the scam artists get you to travel to West Africa, you will
be fortunate to leave alive. There are a few horror stories of
businessmen being picked up at the airport and then found dead a few
miles away. (In the summer of 1995, an American businessman was
found murdered not far from the airport in Lagos. Numerous
missing-person reports have been filed over the past decades.)
* You receive a 419 scam letter from a woman (Mariam
Abacha, Dorie Kabila, etc.). Guess what -- it is really a man.
Probably 99.9% of all scam artists are men. But if you do decide to go
over to meet them, they will have a well-dressed woman meet you at a
restaurant posing as the woman in the emails. Whenever you read an
email from a woman, picture a man at a pay-by-the-hour Internet Cafe
somewhere in West Africa typing with a grin on his face.
* If you travel to the scam artists in West Africa or South
Africa there are also ways for you to be kidnapped, one way or
another. They can arrange for a bribed government official to take
your passport. It is not beyond the police to participate in this
illegal activity. You aren't going back home until you pay a
"gratuity" or "processing fee" to get your
passport returned. Plus, staying in these countries without a
passport is dangerous, to say the least.
* Remember that the average monthly wage for someone in West
Africa is between $25-$30 a month. Keep this in mind as they work
you down from needing $10,000 to $5000. When you continue to resist,
you will be amazed as to how they suddenly find some of the money,
but they still need $2000. You still resist. A few days later they
have "trusted" you so much that they sold the family
vehicle for $1250, but they still need $750. You still resist. They
somehow have obtained $500, but still need $250. The point of all
this is that if they can get any amount of money, they have
succeeded. By the way, everything is relative -- $250 takes care of
their monthly bills for about 10 months. And that's the name of the
game: Lure you in to give them some money. Any amount will do. In
our research, we have seen "multi million dollar deals"
stopped because of the lack of $200 to complete the final
* They'd love to have you send your money by Western Union to the
attention of another name (identity), which may or may not be his/her real
name. Try mentioning that you will wire to a legitimate bank and you
will hear a story about how no one at the bank can know that he/she
is receiving money from overseas, because then the government will
suspect them of having the undeclared money they are trying to give
to you. "And you wouldn't want that to happen to mess up our
business arrangement, would you?"
They make this story sound very convincing!
* The documents they put together are often stunningly real! They
have the national seals and logos, the colors and the
official-looking signatures. The fake passports are very
real-looking. On one hand, they're craftsmanship is admirable. What
a waste. If scam artists were to put their energy into something
legal, they could be a credit to the national business community and
ultimately Africa's economy. The action of scam artists castes a bad
light on all legitimate businesses. How many millions (billions?) of
dollars have not been invested in Africa simply because of the 419
frauds and scams? But sometimes the documents look like they were
created by a pre-teenager. These particular documents are designed
by small-time players trying to get into the scamming game.
* Bribed government officials are often involved. Sometimes they
will even use the offices of actual government buildings. Imagine
the money that has to be paid for this kind of elite treatment!
* Some teams of scam artists have actual offices in some main
cities in North America like Toronto, Atlanta or Dallas.
They will also try to lure you to some of the international
financial headquarters like London, Amsterdam or Spain.
They will have "team members" in these specific cities who will act
as an "intermediary" or "clearing house" to
finalize the transaction deal with you when you arrive. And they
always have some delay or need some final document before the funds
can be released. They play the "good cop" / "bad
cop" routine to perfection. Your initial contact plays dumb,
stating that he has no understanding of or control over what the
person at the "financial center" needs from you. You get
the distinct sense, however, that after dealing with you, they all
get on a conference call, laughing about how stupid you are and then
discussing their next move.
* As said in the previous point, everyone with whom you talk
and/or meet is working together as a team to scam you. They play off
each other while pretending to not know each other. The main contact
turns you over to a person at a finance center in Amsterdam, let's
say. That person in Amsterdam declares that he needs a particular
document. It is as predictable as the law of gravity. You then go
back to your main contact and he turns you over to someone else who
is willing to get someone he knows in the government who will do him
and you a special favor -- for a very special fee. Guess who will be
required to pay that "special fee"?
* The scam artist will ultimately ask you for your bank account
number. Some account numbers are used for future scams. We know of
one person who over time received well over $300,000 in actual bogus
checks. I mean, these checks were real! You could see the watermarks
as they were held up to the light. One check was even from a federal
bankruptcy account. Here's
the scam: They will send you a "good faith"
$35,000 check, asking you to wire about $30,000 from that check to
an overseas account to ostensibly pay for the document fees. You are
told to keep $5,000 of the $35,000 check to cover all your phone and
fax bills. You are "smart" -- before you cash the $35,000
check, you make a few phone calls and are told that it is a real
account and there is enough money to cover everything. You are
amazed and your confidence in your West African contact is bolstered.
You cash it, waiting 48 hours for the the dust to settle. And then
you wire $30,000 to the account in Nigeria. Next thing you know that
FBI is knocking on your door. The check you cashed was a real check
with real money from a real account -- except the money wasn't
legally his to give. Guess who has $30,000 in his account? Your
scamming Nigerian contact. Guess who's left holding the legal
bag? You. Wanna go to jail? Just send and spend the money
from the cashed check given to you by your scam artist friend. That
will put you in deep doo doo.
* A variation to the above scam is that they will tell you to go
check with your bank. "The money has been sent. It's waiting
for you." When you call the bank someone will say that they
have received a fax which states that the, let's say, $18 Millions
is to be sent to the account. You are put off by the lack of money
in your account. You then email or call the scam artist and he will
play dumb telling you to call his "brokerage firm" to
check on the progress being made. You
call the "brokerage firm" and that guy will tell you that
he knows nothing except that the money was sent with a hold on it
until you send him a 1% fee for his service. One percent of $18
Million is $180,000. He wants you to send that amount before he will
release the money. If you send him the money, you have just been
fleeced. There is no money waiting to be sent to your account. This
is a scam! Period.
* There are a variety or processing fees or gratuities (bribes)
which must be paid along the way. The skids must be greased. We have
heard from reliable sources that this could amount to well over $200,000
before all is said and done.
* Most scam artists will use yahoo.com, hotmail.com, justice.com,
other similar untraceable email address. But they send out so many
scams that they have a hard time keeping up with everybody. That's
why many times you will see the name with a number behind it --
* Some of the big time operators will even pay the airfare for
you to come over to Nigeria or some other African country. Here's a
hint: Do Not Accept! One way or another, that "free
trip" will cost you dearly, perhaps your life.
* Here is a strategy our acquaintances have tried with great
success. Give the scam artists your DHL number (It'll cost you about
$40. Money well spent if you are interested in playing this little
game.) and have them send you the actual document
or certificate, along with three business cards from their lawyer
and the bank official. Plus three copies of the bank brochure. These
items all must be sent to you the very next day. You want to
communicate a sense of urgency to minimize the amount of time it
takes for them to create quality-looking fake documents. Why three
copies of each? It means that they can't make just one fake business
card. They have to make three of each. One of our acquaintances
received some items that looked like a child put them together, cut
with a pair of scissors. (Want to see a scan
of five of the actual business cards which were sent via DHL?)
It is funny and pitiful at the same time. The other documents which
were sent (Certificate of Deposit and Contractual Agreement) were
returned, simply because that's what was promised. But the scam
artists claimed that the documents were never returned, trying to
heap a ton of "guilt" in the direction of the sender.
* If you get sucked into a 419 scam, just remember that the scam
artists are playing upon the blindness of your own gullibility,
greediness or neediness. Once you have discovered that you have been
scammed you will probably become very angry. You will fire off an
email, or a telephone call -- with threatening words. You might even
threaten to go to the FBI with your information. The scam
artist will then calmly say, "Go ahead and threaten to bring
the strong arm of the law upon me. I will then tell them how you
were ready to engage in an illegal activity, dealing with illegal
funds. I will roast you so badly that you won't know what hit
you." That threat alone is sufficient to stop most folks from
following through on their threats. The scam artist goes free, with
your money, ready to scam another greedy sucker.
* Circus promoter, P. T. Barnum stated that a sucker is born
every minute. 419 scam artists prove this to be true every day!
Don't be another statistic.
------- WHAT CAN BE DONE
ABOUT THESE SCAM ARTISTS? -------
Not much. We don't want to sound fatalistic,
but the reality is that the scam artists hide behind
untraceable email addresses, sending their scam letters from
pay-by-the-hour Internet Cafes. The governments of Africa are
generally in a survival mode, with little interest in dealing
with some Internet scam artist in a local village. There are
always bigger fish to fry.
Plus we have actually talked with West African
government and business officials about their perception of
these 419 scams. They have expressed amazement that anyone
could be fooled by the empty promises contained in
emails from a stranger in Africa. In their eyes, the
culpability goes both ways. "Who could be such a fool to
give money to someone they have never met?" This is a
valid question for all of us to ponder...
What we have done at The Freeman Institute is
to provide a free service to warn individuals who may be flirting
with the idea of great wealth coming their way. Our motto is:
Run, don't walk, away from these scams and then do what you
can to warn people about this pervasive problem. Feel free to
provide a link to www.freemaninstitute.com/419.htm
-- so that more people can see the truth about these 419
© Copyright, 2003 The
Freeman Institute. All rights reserved. Nothing on this
page may be used without explicit written permission. Note: Reproduction of any kind, including cutting and pasting, is
~ OPTIONS &
You may have received an example of the
"Nigerian Fraud/419 scam" which is a common e-mail
problem, especially in the US. Click on some of the sites below to
get the bigger picture.
-- A very funny site...
In the US, this matter should be also reported to the FBI Internet
Fraud Complaint Center https://www.ifccfbi.gov
, and to the Secret Service. There is also a need (since the USPS
also investigates e-mail complaints, to report it to the United
States Postal Inspection Service
. It should also be reported to the sender's ISP abuse department,
normally expressed as abuse@ [insert ISP sig here].
Warnings about traveling to Nigeria -- http://travel.state.gov/tips_nigeria.html
If you lost money as a result of this scheme, don't be embarrassed,
and please report it to the Secret Service -- which has set up a
special 419 task force. Send your documentation to the United States
Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 1800 G Street NW, Room
942, Washington, D.C. 20223 or call
(202) 435-5850. Secret Service -- http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/usss/usss.html
( investigates currency issues such as forgery, credit card fraud,
and other financial fraud) Financial Crimes Enforcement -- http://www.treas.gov/fincen
-- Money laundering and related activity, including offshore
If you have received a letter, but not lost any money, send a fax of
the letter to the Secret Service at (202) 435-5031.
Internal Revenue Service Criminal
Investigative Division -- http://www.treas.gov/irs/ci/index.htm
Securities & Exchange
Commission -- http://www.sec.gov --
Investigates securities fraud and related issues.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- http://www.ftc.gov
-- Jurisdiction over most consumer-oriented scams.
Federal Bureau of Investigations
(FBI) -- http://www.fbi.gov
-- Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice
To understand a 419 scheme in either French or
For hard numbers, the Australian
Institute of Criminology article and the US Dept. of State pub.
10465 will prepare you better than this site will. Really good
backgrounders. From these you will get an idea of the scope of this
scam. There are already inter-governmental relationships established
over this issue.