"419" Scam – Advance Fee / Fake Lottery Scam
The so-called "419" scam (aka "Nigeria scam" or "West African" scam) is a type of fraud named after an article of the Nigerian penal code under which it is prosecuted. It is also known as "Advance Fee Fraud" because the common principle of all the scam format is to get the victim to send cash (or other items of value) upfront by promising them a large amount of money that they would receive later if they cooperate. In almost all cases, the criminals receive money using Western Union and MoneyGram, instant wire transfer services with which the recipient can't be traced once the money has been picked up. These services should never be used with people you only know by email or telephone!
Typically, victims of the scam are promised a lottery win (example) or a large sum of money sitting in a bank account or in a deposit box at a security company. Often the storyline involves a family member of a former member of government of an African country, a ministerial official, an orphan or widow of a rich businessman, etc. Here is an example. Variants of the plot involving the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Mauritius, etc. are also known. Some emails include pictures of boxes stuffed with dollar bills, scans of fake passports, bank or government documents and pictures of supposedly the sender.
Though most of these scams use emails sent in English, we also come across emails translated into French, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish and Czech, Indonesian, as well as English and French letters by postal mail, usually mailed from Spain.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s (for this is nothing new!) the main vehicle for this scam were fax machines.
The victims are promised a fortune for providing a bank account to transfer the money to. Then - if they fall for the scam - they are made to part with thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in "bribes" for local officials or other "fees" (taxes, insurance, legal fees, etc) before the "partners" finally disappear without trace. Here are some typical examples of advance fee demands.
Sometimes fraudulent cashier's checks are issued to the victims, who are asked to wire funds for various charges after the bank says funds are "available" from the check, but before the check has actually cleared. Any transaction that involves cashing a check for a third party and then forwarding funds from it to another person you don't know is almost guaranteed to be a scam.
Here are some of the fake reasons given to victims why they should send money:
The people who receive the scam emails and fall for them often are not the only victims of the scam. We have come across a few cases where people who lacked the funds to cover the advance fee demands committed crimes to get money. They misappropriated often huge amounts from their employers, from charitable organizations they worked for or from other acquaintances they defrauded, hoping they would be able to repay them from the promised millions before anybody would notice. In this way one crime begets another.
Spam emails for advance fee fraud differ from "normal" spam in several ways:
How to report 419 spam to us
"419" scam email sample archives:
2011: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
2010: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
2009: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
The following is a list of senders and subject lines received over the last couple of months. In some cases there are duplicates because we received more than one copy in our mailboxes.