Do you want a piece of a multi-million dollar fortune? Would you be willing to pay, say, a few hundred dollars in upfront banking costs to receive it? Math aside, itâ€™s probably a very bad idea.
A typical Nigerian scam combines impersonation with advance fee scams offering a percentage of some fabulous fortune. The Nigerian scam, now so famous even mom knows about it, still accounts for some of the highest losses per incident of all reported e-threats. Many scams arenâ€™t even reported because victims are so ashamed of falling for this trick that they prefer to suffer in silence.
Here are 10 things about Nigerian scams that you might not know:
1. Nigerian scams are also referred to as 419 scams after the number of a Nigerian Criminal Code article that tackles fraud.
2. Donâ€™t blame Nigeria! These fraudsters are rarely actually Nigerian. The latest data show that 61 per cent of Nigerian scammers were actually in the US, while 16 per cent are UK-based. Only 6 per cent or so are actually from Nigeria.
3. Nigerian scams pre-date the Internet. Scammers started out via fax and traditional mail.
4. The more ridiculous the Nigerian scam, the more likely it is to succeed, according to a 2012 Microsoft study. Cyber-crooks say they are Nigerian and need help to transfer millions of dollars as a sort of gullibility filter. It weeds out the suspicious majority so scammers can spend their time only on the easiest of targets.
5. Nigerian scammers are also familiar with the law of probabilities. One con artist estimated that he normally received about seven replies from the 500 e-mails he sent every day. When he received a reply, he was 70 per cent certain he would get the money he asked for.
6. Nigerian scams are lately part of more elaborate Internet tricks, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. E-mails that directly spoof the name of FBI Director Robert Mueller include elements of Nigerian scam letters, incorporating get-rich inheritance scenarios, lottery winning notifications and extortion e-threats.
7. Some of the “Nigerians” really do have a fortune! After their scams, that is. Ayodele Abrahamm Saliu was arrested in May 2012, while he was trying to leave South Africa. He was sought in the US in 11 cases on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, computer intrusion and identity theft. His scams inflicted losses of $500,000.
8. No President of the United States has ever been known to take part in a Nigerian scam. In 2008, a woman working as a nurse and part-time reverend lost $400k to a Nigerian scam. She grew suspicious at some point but was persuaded to keep stuffing scammersâ€™ bank accounts at the urging of â€œthe President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller and President Bush.â€ Apparently, she didnâ€™t check if the IP address traced back to the White House.
9. If you think people are more security-aware now than four years ago, think again. Only a week ago, a California woman lost $300,000 after falling for (and in love with) a Nigerian scammer on dating site ChristianMingle.com.
10. Nigerian scams can also be lethal. If victims accept an invitation to meet government officials in their country, they may end up abducted or even killed. George Makronalli, a 29-year-old Greek, was killed after being lured to South Africa. And Norwegian millionaire Kjetil Moe was murdered in 2000 by Nigerian scammers.
Donâ€™t send personal information to people you donâ€™t know, particularly banking details. To be sure, donâ€™t give that data to people you know, either! Be skeptical of any â€œreputable businessmanâ€ or â€œforeign government officialâ€ asking for your help. Not even a reinforced antivirus solution protects people from excessive gullibility.