One of the oldest scams is the book is the advance-fee fraud, more commonly known as Nigerian 419 scam after its huge use by Nigerians in the last decade or so (419 is the part of the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers this frime). It’s really a variation of the very old school Spanish Prisoner scam but the idea basic idea is the same – someone needs help and they’re willing to pay you a large sum of money, as long as you front a bit of the cost beforehand.
The old school Spanish Prisoner scam dates back to the 1800’s where a con man convinces the sucker that there’s a very wealthy prisoner locked up in a Spanish jail. The wealthy prisoner is locked up under a false identity and can’t communicate directly with the sucker, he has to go through the intermediary (con man). If the sucker has some money to help free the wealthy prisoner, the prisoner will gladly repay him and then some. If the sucker ponies up some cash, there are often other hitches and require more money, until the sucker realizes he’s been taken.
As you can see, the Nigerian 419 scam is not much different. Someone needs help moving a very large amount of money out of the country and you can get a small part of that by helping out. It all involves you paying them, or a third party, a small amount to “release” the funds. If you do, problems will arise and you will have to pay more.
My favorite part of the scam is the fact that scamming the scammers has become a big thing. 419eater.com  is the most prominent of the scambaiting sites where marks turn the tables on the scammers. I’ve seen marks get the scammers to make wood carvings, send photos with fishes on their head (a play on the term phishing), and other ludicrous things.
As is anything that preys on people’s greed, or desperation, use your own fraud detector to ferret out these scams. Why does a Nigerian prince, or any prince, want to send you money? How did they get your email? Was it addressed to you or did it come with no name at all?
Above all, don’t ever send anyone money on the internet in order to get money back! You’re not getting it back… ever!
Do you know anyone who has been taken by a Nigerian 419 scam? Have you successfully convinced someone that it’s a scam and for them not to send any cash?
(Photo: Marxchivist )