Victims are often asked to deal with fake private security company
officials who demand payment before releasing the cash. The
criminals will go to unbelievable extents to stage the scam. These
scams have netted the gangs huge dividends, so they have better
resources with which to create more sophisticated traps.
The criminals can now afford to buy expensive clothes, jewelry, hire
vehicles and expensive rooms in prestigious hotels.
Nigerian criminal activities are now being reported from the
Netherlands and the UK. If the victims are lured to Nigeria, they
are introduced to bank officials, and government officers. In many
cases, these are other gang members posing as
officials, in other cases they are real, but corrupt government
The criminals will also tell victims that they will facilitate their
entry into Nigeria. They do this by bribing custom officers who let
the victims into the country without a valid visa.
There are heavy penalties in Nigeria for visitors who enter the
country without a valid visa.
When the victims arrive on location, "problems" start to arise. The
scam operator tells the victims that a Government official wants a
bribe, that the Bank requires a transfer fee, and so on. At this
point in time the victims are truly compromised and they pay.
If the victims change their minds and try to back out of the deal,
they are blackmailed because of their illegal entry status. In
other cases unwilling victims have been murdered.
1) Is this a
money laundering scheme?
No, there is no real money involved. This is purely a scam. 100%
The bequest, the donation, the inheritance, the hidden funds in
metal containers, the millions deposited with (fake) security
companies -- they are all frauds. The only real money involved in
this scam is the one that is currently sitting in your bank account.
International money laundering, of course, does happen. However, I
can assure you, that those involved in laundering money will not be
doing it by approaching a total stranger through Yahoo Mail.
The real international money laundering gangs work through legal
firms, established and reliable contacts and corrupt financial
Think about it, if you had US$18 million, would you transfer it to a
total stranger's bank account in a foreign country?
The criminals' budget has certainly increased in the last few years.
Gangs have robbed western victims (mostly from the US, Australia and
Europe) of at least one US billion per year.
The gangs are becoming more sophisticated and now have the money to
purchase equipment and hire other criminals. However, they remain
essentially poorly educated, small time crooks.
2) What is the
danger of answering these letters?
Attracting the attention of criminals is unhealthy, even if they are
in Nigeria or SA or Russia. Global crime is on the increase.
Answering the gang and giving them details of your address and so on
will single you out as a "soft target" to scams.
Even if you change your mind afterwards your address will be "sold"
to other gangs.
However, until you have sent details of your bank account or sent
money there is little they can do. If you are in Nigeria and are
threatened, contact your local embassy or consulate and ask for
If you do contact Nigeria Police, contact their Headquarters --avoid
calling local branches.
3) The scam
E-mail arrived from Hong King, India or from a country outside
Africa how is that possible?
Up until recently, the gangs have used free web-based E-mail
accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo. These services are now
immediately identified as a free web-based E-mail accounts.
The gangs are now switching to lesser-known free E-mail services.
There are several large reputable US companies who offer free E-mail
accounts. Anyone can open an account.
The gangs have been known to use the free E-mail of reputable
companies, because they are a well-known and respected telephone
I can assure you that, if such a scam ever appeared in the US,
American authorities would shut it down in a New York second!
There is also evidence that this scam has now spread to all African
countries. The fraud is easy to carry out and profitable and is
bound to spread to countries where law and order authorities are
corrupt or ineffective.
Recently a victim called us to report that the criminals had an
accent typical of a West African.
4) How many of
these letters have "surfaced" on the Internet?
Hundreds of thousands--not just Nigerian type letters.
The gangs are becoming more sophisticated. There are new scams of
"children appealing for money to go to school". The child is usually
"middle-aged" and disappears after the money is handed over.
Travel agents defrauded of thousands of dollars after the purchase
of tickets by "official members" of the Nigerian Government.
Professional people (and sometimes unemployed persons) offered
highly paid executive positions in Africa by fake employment
Western men (and women) accosted in chat rooms by "single" African
The romance ends when the hapless victims have no more money to send
to their new found "love". The "girlfriend or boyfriend" in reality
is a fat middle-aged Nigerian.
The photographs of the beautiful girl or young man are downloaded
from the Internet. Sometimes they are pictures of local celebrities.
Recently, we have received reports that criminals are using chat
rooms and personal introduction services to search for possible
victims. See our New Scams Page. The
criminals impersonate widows of heads of state and dictators.
Essentially they prey on the goodwill of the people they meet in the
More disturbingly, criminals are now targeting charities, religious
organizations with fake bequests.
The gangs use blasphemy in order to win the trust of devout
Christian and Muslim people. The criminals will quote verses from
the Bible and the Koran and beg for mercy and compassion.
In some instances, we have received E-mail from charities and
churches that were about to send money and aid to the gangs.
Fortunately, most charitable organizations find us before they
I will be focusing my efforts to expose criminals who use blasphemy
to rob charities, churches, religious groups and decent, well
meaning people. I feel very strongly about this issue. I am truly
disgusted by this kind of behavior.
5) How can I help
fight the gangs?
Tell your friends about these scams. Western Governments should
also place more pressure on African Governments to act against these
Do write to your Government and insist that they provide an
efficient service to help prevent these types of criminal
activities, and also to provide support for victims.
I find it amusing that this privately owned website offers a more
efficient service to the general public than all the police agencies
in the world combined.
Clearly police agencies worldwide are short of funds and expertise
about electronic crime. Governments should provide more funds and
training to their law enforcement agencies to combat Internet crime.
After all this is the crime of the future.
6) I replied to
the letter and gave the criminals my address and personal financial
details, have I broken the law?
Answering the criminals and asking for more details is not a crime
and you should not feel intimidated.
Providing your personal and financial details to the criminals is in
itself not a Crime, but it exposes you to further criminal
If you have provided the criminals with a photocopy of your passport
or driver's license, report this matter to your local authorities.
The criminals could forge these documents and use your identity in
If you have provided authorization to access or operate your bank
account notify your bank manager immediately. You should do so even
if there is no money in your bank account-one day there may be.
7) I made contact
with the gang and now they keep calling me on the telephone.
Tell the scammer that you have been in touch with 419 COALITION and
that you have read the message from the Nigerian Democratic Movement
If they persist or make personal threats, contact your local police.
In all cases, do not allow the scammers to terrorize you.
The crooks will respond angrily with insults and threats. While your
life would definitely be in danger if you traveled to their country,
there is no evidence to suggest that the gangs have the intent or
the means to harm people overseas.
If a serious threat occurs, you should contact police and seek their
advice. You should also hire a security consultant to improve your
Please do not ask me to suggest a suitable course of action. I do
not have the resources to do so. This is a job for your local police
and the security consultant of your choice.
PLEASE DO NOT REFER THE CRIMINALS TO THIS WEBSITE
8) I have paid
money to the gang how can I recover it?
Unfortunately, It is highly unlikely you will be able to recover
Under no circumstances should you even think of traveling to Nigeria
to recover your money. By doing so you will be endangering your
life. You will also risk becoming the victim of muggings,
kidnappings and other criminal activities.
In some cases, victims of scams have fallen into even bigger scams
set up by fake lawyers offering their services to prosecute the
Accept the fact that you have been robbed. Treat it as you would a
house robbery Treat this event as a valuable lesson and put it
I believe that good comes out from all evil. Sometimes these
"lessons" are blessings in disguise. They raise your awareness and
help you prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a more serious
Certainly, there is no point in despairing. Your money is gone. Even
if you did manage to get the crooks arrested (and that is highly
unlikely) you are not going to recover your finances. Meanwhile you
would have wasted even more resources (both emotional and
Wealth can return, but without peace of mind life is unbearable.
9) I feel angry
and violated. How can I help prosecute the criminals?
The best course of action is to warn as many people as possible.
There are new scams surfacing similar to the 419 Nigerian Scam
Letter. For example there is a new wave of fake banks appearing on
the internet. All of the websites share the same animated flash
image and they are all using .org domain names.
your friends and help organizations that offer free services to the
community. Placing a link to your website to
www.419scams.com will also
help protect your visitors and friends.
You can report the scammers
and other criminals to the FBI via their Internet Fraud Complaint
The FBI website is by far
the most efficient law enforcement agency in the world in providing
a fully automated service for reporting crime worldwide.
US citizens can also lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade
Commission on line at
The Commission deals mainly with complaints about malpractice within
the US. However, if you have been robbed, they may be able to
provide you with some assistance.
US citizens who have been defrauded may contact The United States
Secret Service Financial Crimes Division, 1800 G Street N.W. Room
942 Washington, D.C. 20223 Attn: Nigerian Scam
US who have been robbed may also want to visit this address:
U. S. Consulate General
2, Walter Carrington Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria
Telephone: (234)-1-261-0050, 261-0078, 261-0158
DO NOT CONTACT THE CONSULATE UNLESS YOU ARE A US CITIZEN WHO HAS
The Consulate cannot help you conduct investigations or give you
information about the people who have contacted you. To achieve that
you will need to hire a private investigator. We cannot recommend a
Nigerian investigator who can be trusted.
The Nigerian Government has recently launched a web site dedicated
to the scam. Visit
We were told that on this website there is a link which you can use
to report the scammers.
Unfortunately, this site seems to be inoperative most of the times.
We have tried logging in on several occasions without success.
You may also try writing to the Nigerian Police. Their website is at
There is an E-mail address on that website and a list of telephone
numbers you can call. If you are successful in getting cooperation,
let me know the officer's name, number and E-mail and I will publish
I have received mail from a victim who reported the criminals to the
Nigerian Police through this website. The victim told me the
Nigerian Police answered him and seemed to be genuinely interested
in the case.
This is encouraging news and I hope that it signals a change of
attitude. However, do not be disappointed if you do not receive a
10) How did they
get my name and address? Why did they pick me for the scam?
The criminals did not single you out. They are constantly searching
the Internet for names of possible victims.
They use E-mail harvesting software, buy illegally obtained spam
lists, search newsgroups, message boards, advertisements, chat
rooms, trade registers and so on.
At times they even use legitimate registers, for example those
provided from associations and government bodies.
We tested this theory by placing advertisements in a number of
legitimate trade registers and other user groups. Within hours we
started receiving scam
As a general rule, never place your main E-mail address in user
groups. Use a Web-based E-mail service instead.
11) I am going to
abuse the crooks and send them a link to both
www.419scams.com and all
the other web sites who publish warnings about scam letters.
PLEASE DO NOT REFER THE CRIMINALS TO THIS WEBSITE.
A well-meaning person did just that and we are still fighting off
viruses and hacker attacks. In any case, it is a very bad idea to
reply to the criminals.
The criminals send thousands of E-mails and a reply (even if it is
abusive) will single you out. Ignore them. Fight the urge to
retaliate. It could come back to bite you.
One thing that you can do, is report the criminal as a spammer to
the provider of the E-mail service they use.
For example, in the case of Yahoo, send the full E-mail including
the hidden headers to
Be sure to send the full message with headers, or Yahoo will not be
able to act on your complaint. Check with your E-mail software about
how to view the headers of incoming E-mail.
If the criminal uses another web-based E-mail service, send the
complaint to abuse@*****enter the name of the service.
For example if the criminal's address is
firstname.lastname@example.org you should send the full message
including the header to >>>>>>>>email@example.com
Reporting the scammers to the E-mail provider is a good thing
because the criminals' E-mail service is cancelled, and they have to
start all over again.
12) Why doesn't
www.419scams.com is not
a law enforcement agency. It is an Association. I have the same
powers of catching criminals as you do. Moreover
www.419scams.com is run by
volunteers. It's a labor of love.
Catching these criminals is difficult even for law enforcement
agencies such as INTERPOL and the FBI. The criminals move constantly
and often have corrupt supporters who protect them.
The only effective way to deal with these gangs is to warn the
public about the scams.
You can also help by placing links on your web site and by
supporting agencies that offer free services to the community.
13) How can
people fall for such scams?
Among the victims are lawyers, real estate agents and professionals.
Sadly, most of the victims are people struggling with financial
problems. We have read many heart rending stories of retrenched
people selling their family home (or their parents') in order to pay
the criminals. People who are down are most vulnerable to such
What surprises me is the number of professionals who also fall for
these scams. I suppose the prospect of receiving US$200 million is a
very powerful incentive to silence the voice of reason.
If you have been caught, I strongly suggest you arrange for
counseling. Don't allow the criminals to ruin your entire life. They
can only rob you of money, don't allow them to take your spirit
www.419scams.com help me
with investigations, telephone counseling and legal matters?
Unfortunately, I cannot provide a personal service. I do not have
the resources to offer such a service. What I can do though, is try
to help prevent people becoming victims of scams.
I know I am making a difference. My Scam Alert service has helped
thousands of people escape the criminals. I am receiving hundreds of
E-mail per month from near victims thanking me for the free service.
It would be nice to be able to have a task force dedicated to
helping victims of scams and even catching the criminals, but at the
moment this is just a dream.
Please do not call me on the telephone because I will not be able to
take your call. Even if I did answer the call, I would not be able
to tell you any more than what I have already written on this page.
Contact your local politician and ask them to provide a service for
victims of scams in your country or region.
www.419scams.com offer a
paid personal service?
No, we do not offer a paid service; it would be unethical and
dishonest to charge for a service that cannot provide any solutions.
Be extremely cautious about paying organizations offering to help
you recover your money.
If you have been robbed, the only body that can help you recover the
money would be the Police with the support of the Government where
the criminals live and operate.
Hiring a local private investigator is another solution. However, I
do not know of any reliable and trustworthy investigators operating
in the areas where criminals operate.
I have received information of victims being robbed a second time by
bogus lawyers, fake police and fake private investigators.
If you are financially disadvantaged, your local pastor/priest/rabbi
or local Area Health Service (hospitals, charities and benevolent
organizations) may be able to offer you a free counseling service.
People who are able to afford a professional counseling service
should do so by contacting their local accredited counselor.
15) Who finances
At the moment, we are supporting this service by paying for
the website, upgrading the pages, answering victims' and near
victims' E-mail, and processing new scams.
We want to make it perfectly clear that we do not expect anyone to
sponsor this service. It is a labor of love. During
this time we have received no finances because we have never asked
over three years of research we have discovered that the best way to
deal with 419 scams is to expose them on the Internet. This problem
is so huge that is almost impossible for African governments to
address these frauds. There are always "bigger fish to fry". And
some argue that the governments do not have the finances, or in some
cases the will, to stop them.
Our view is that if everyone did their best to stop crime, there
would be no crime. Criminals thrive on the apathy of others. And in
419 scams they thrive on the victim keeping a secret. Scam artists
are experts at isolating victims, even from their own families. In
the vow of victims do not bring in others who could provide the
objectivity to see the scam for what it is.
It is ridiculous to expect that law enforcement authorities alone
will be able to prevent criminal activities, or be efficient at
catching all criminals. They never have and never will.
All law enforcement agencies that we know suffer from chronic lack of
funds. Government must be pressured into providing more resources to
their crime fighting agencies.
With appropriate funding, it would be easy to create an efficient
global computer crime fighting agency. Ultimately, crime prevention
is the duty of every honest human being.
Report crime to police and warn others of potential criminal
------- 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 scams.