Scam Spam Kills
February 24, 2003 11:51 AM   Subscribe

The Nigerian Scam Email also known as the 419 scam, claims a death. People get scammed all the time, hopefully with less dire consequences. The FTC has a list of the 12 most common scams. Has anybody here been scammed lately (it happens to the best of us and most likely all of us, at one time or another)?
posted by ashbury (17 comments total)
I feel obligated to pay homage to the proper response to scam artists. The bastards.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2003

previously on metafilter.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:14 PM on February 24, 2003

ebk, the link I posted was to something somewhat different: a scam victim killed a man who worked at the Nigerian embassy. The victim was looking to get his money back.
posted by ashbury at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2003

posted by dabitch at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2003

dabitch beat me to it.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2003




I quit on making front page posts...

I swear to god I search mefi before I post...

posted by ashbury at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2003

Double post (??) aside, I'd like to comment that the most common virus to which people are susceptible is the gullibility virus.

Use your ISP as a resource if you don't know how to find out if a piece of information you've received is for real or not. We'll point you in the right direction. That's what we're here for, you know.

Most of us, at least.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2003

WolfDaddy, why would you need to go to your ISP when you can just use your own brain to work out that someone offering to give you huge sums of money for nothing is not being overly generous with the truth? I mean, really? I am not saying that you should not ask your ISP for advice in any situation, as they often provide a high level of assistance to users, but why would someone have any doubt that these messages belong in the garbage?

I guess I am being too hard or expecting too much from mere humans, but I have little sympathy for anyone caught by these scams. Potential Darwin Award winners, every one of them, is my guess.
posted by dg at 5:41 PM on February 24, 2003

The canonical list of 419s

I get half a dozen of these at work every week. Thought about starting my own collection before I found that.
posted by NsJen at 6:02 PM on February 24, 2003

I recently received a 419 e-mail from someone claiming to be Joseph Estrada's wife. I thought that was a nice twist. It had all the stylistic markers of the classic Nigerian version. It came from a hotmail account. Now, is this latest version actually based in the Philippines? Any other countries getting into this business?
posted by rschram at 6:20 PM on February 24, 2003

WolfDaddy, why would you need to go to your ISP when you can just use your own brain to work out that someone offering to give you huge sums of money for nothing is not being overly generous with the truth

dg, you assume that most people use the discriminatory parts of their brains when reading "MILLIONS CASH DOLLARS 4U 4FREE 4EVA"

Don't. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:43 PM on February 24, 2003

I quit on making front page posts

That would be a shame. Overall the post spawned new discussion and I'd never seen the FCC 12 list.
posted by stbalbach at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2003

dg, you assume that most people use the discriminatory parts of their brains...

No, I just don't feel sorry for them in the slightest when they get stung. I would assume anyone with the brains to go to their ISP and question the legitimacy of one of these e-mails would not get caught out in the first place. I wonder how many of them use AOL...? :-)
posted by dg at 9:07 PM on February 24, 2003

anyone else still getting 419 by snail mail?
posted by twine42 at 1:11 AM on February 25, 2003

I still get 3-5 419's a week via email. I always quickly reply, expressing a great interest in helping the "former diplomat/general/cabinet minister" get their money out-of-country, with me getting my share for helping.

Of course, I give them my name, phone, and fax numbers, too. Funny that my name just happens to be the same as the governor of my state, and my numbers happen to be identical to the U.S. Secret Service field office's numbers in Portland (OR).

I wonder if the Secret Service receptionist is as amused as I would be if someone kept callng for "Ted Kulongoski," asking about getting a bank account number...
posted by wdpeck at 2:29 AM on February 25, 2003

wdpeck, what a great idea! I've never gotten one of these 419 messages, but now I actually hope to. Sounds fun.

Does anyone know if the Nigerian government is actually making an effort to put a stop to this? There ought to be a number/email people can contact to report such things.
posted by orange swan at 6:37 AM on February 25, 2003

Here is the US Nigerian Embassy's statement on 419 scam. Unfortunately, the way this works it is often difficult to stop. Most internet cafes in Nigeria (Lagos and Ibadan) that I've used have signs that forbid the use of their computers for writing and sending 419 letters. Of course this is pretty near impossible to enforce. Additionally, not all 419 letters originate in Nigeria or are perpetrated by Nigerians; the form is easy to copy and quite portable. However, the political situation of Nigeria (recently deposed and corrupt military dictator who stole millions of oil money from Nigerian coffers) and its prominent place in world news makes it a great target for this scam.

There is what I would call a sort of "ethical flexibility" in Nigeria, in that it is not necessarily bad to propose something outrageous to someone, and if the person who you propose it to agrees than it is their responsibility. This can be anything as straightforward as asking you for money directly, to asking you to help them get a US visa, to trying to sell fake works of antiquity. The 419 is taking this to an extreme. However, most Nigerians are not involved in nor do they approve of 419, and are extremely frustrated by the image that is generally held by Nigerians becuase of it (as well drug "swallowers" and prostitution rings).

The Nigerian embassy in Abuja published the following book review concerning the scam (I post it here because the link doesn't seem to be working):

Exploits of the "419" Scam

Another book on the high-dollar "419" (Advanced Fee Fraud) scams has been released into the market. Written by Charles Tive, Investigative Specialist of the U.S. Embassy Secret Service and former Deputy Superintendent of the Nigerian Police, this book is vastly different from the rest. Tive makes his debut as an author with "419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man," an excellent diagnosis of the modus operandi of the fast growing international scam business. This new book covers the reason for such scams and why some Nigerians perpetrate these schemes. The coverage of basic "419" is direct and complete with ample examples of real life-cases. The expectation is that this book will serve as an aid to those in business and government circles as well as the general public.

"Tive's insight of the perpetrators behind advance fee fraud with his knowledge on the topic, show that he is a true authority on the subject," said Ralph Gonzales, Special Agent-in-charge of the U.S. Secret Service. The author explains "419" as any scheme or plan designed to separate people from their money through fraudulent means or by misrepresentation as covered under Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code laws of the Federation of Nigeria and Lagos (1958) chapter 42. Tive acknowledges that while transnational financial crimes are common among citizens of different nationals, "the '419' scams and its modus operandi are peculiar to Nigerians." "This type of scam is ignominious because it has generally portrayed Nigerian businessmen/women in bad light," said Tive. "There are several genuine businessmen/women in Nigeria engaged in honest and legitimate business relationships with Americans, Europeans and other foreigners and these business relationships must be protected and the image of Nigeria saved from ridicule."

To give the reader a good understanding of the operations of "419" scams, the University of Jos History graduate discussed five major types of transnational scams. There is recurrent Advance Fee Fraud, the "Black Money" (alias wash-wash), the Life Insurance scam, counterfeit checks and the credit-card scam. For each type of scam, the author presents samples of fraudulent business proposals requesting assistance on government letterheads. The samples demonstrate why "419" scams are effective, as they appeal directly to two human traits, greed and assumed superior knowledge. The author believes that while majority of Nigerians suffer the stigma of the "419" scam, "less than 1% of Nigerians are actually involved in this ignominious trade," the impact Tives continues "has led to several honest Nigerians being treated as common criminals."

"419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man," is published by Chicha Favours and printed by Image Concept Nigeria Limited. More than 10,000 copies have been printed with a cover prize of N1,000 (one thousand Naira). The book contains 135 pages.
posted by vitpil at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2003

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