Nigerian 419 scams are nothing new. Since the early 1980s and well before the internet, con artists from Africa originally sent out letters in the post feeding off the human trait of greed.
Today, whilst the communication medium might have changed, nothing else really has when it comes to this particular scam and why would it? For thirty years the scam has been bringing in the dollars.
It seems that no matter how many people are scammed, there are always more willing to believe they’ve inherited money from someone they’ve never heard of, won a lottery they never entered or that they really will receive a reward for helping some Nigerian prince escape from the evil clutches of the boogeyman.
With 99.9% of nigerian scams, the target usually receives an email with a sob story promising them a large some of money. The target then usually hands over some personal details for the transaction to take place and is then informed that they need to send some money over first before funds can be released.
If the target sends the initial funds, over time more are requested until either the target wakes up to the scam, goes bankrupt or the scammer decides to move on and drops all communication.
The latter rarely happens, I mean if you’ve found yourself a golden cow why would you stop milking it for money.
Suprisingly, the people that get caught up in these scams are labelled victims. I might have had a shred of sympathy to spare back in the 80′s but anybody who has a few grand to send to Africa in 2009 can damn well afford the internet and the five seconds it takes to type ‘nigerian scam’ into Google.
Technically they are fraud victims, but really… let’s not kid ourselves. Nobody replies to these emails because they care about the poor Doctor Ubangabongo needing to escape the wild monkeys who inexplicably turned savage on him after he injected them with his fabulously valuable revolutionary aids vaccine.
The fact of the matter is the people that fall for these scams always have dollar signs in their eyes, that’s the only reason these scams have been working for thirty years.
Unfortunately getting scammed by Nigerians isn’t just something that happens to people in remote countries nobody’s ever heard of. Australians gladly burn an estimated thirty six million dollars a year on Nigerian scams.
It’s worth noting this an estimated amount as it only counts confirmed cases from those that actually bother to come forward after realising they’ve been scammed. I guess there’s an internal poignant shame for falling for these things in the first place that many would rather not tell anybody about.
Estimate or not though, thirty six million is a lot of money to be pissing up the wall each year. Queenslanders alone are spending half a million a month on these scams. That’s over a third of how much they wasted on the Pokies when Father Rudd was handing out free money last year! If they’re not careful soon Nigerian scams will outweigh gambling scams and Queenslander’s will find themselves on the verge of un-Australian.
The Letters of Fraud blog documents the case of one family from Queensland where one family lost between 1.3 and 1.5 million to scammers.
In a nutshell, some woman they knew approached a member of the family, Steven Baker, and claimed she’d been told the father she never met had left her a gazillion dollar estate when he passed away.
She had never met her father, but she knew his name and responded to a newspaper advertisement that had individually targeted her, mentioning both her name and her father’s.
Shortly after making contact the standard ‘give us money so we can release the funds’ routine was put in play.
Sound fishy yet?
This is when she approached Baker and would have offered him a slice of the gazillion dollar inheritance. Then with the both of them blinded by the huge dollar signs in their eyes the Bakers forked out over a million and someone, somewhere probably bought a nice house, sent their kids to some presitgious school or just blew it all on hookers.
My bet is on hookers. What with half of Africa seemingly infected with aids, disease free hookers must be charging a small fortune for a happy ending these days.
Detective Acting Superintendent Brian Hay of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group said of the case:
We can only theorize how they came to know (the woman) and I would suggest it would be from online chat rooms where she thinks she knows who she’s talking to, and people say a lot of things that they wouldn’t tell others.
Hey Mr. smartypants Acting Superintendant, i’ve got a hot tip for you: SHE WAS PROBABLY IN ON IT.
Then there’s examples such as the grandma scam that has been going on for twenty years and to date involves the loss of around six million dollars.
Think i’m kidding? Think again.
A Current Affair recently ran a story on Connie the grandmother. I’ll let you watch the piece first as it’s pretty self explanatory. Click on the link below to watch the report.
Feeling outraged and sorry for her yet?
Yes she’s an old lady, yes she’s financially ruined anybody close to her and yes it is sad that after all this time the promises of scammers is all shes living for, but let’s call a spade a spade. Connie received a fax promising her a substantial amount of money and it is this greed that got her to where she is today.
A grumpy, crabby old woman so obsessed I bet she hasn’t enjoyed a day in her life for a very long time.
Despite relying on stupidity and greed from the target though, Nigerian scams don’t always operate on this premise. Recently Nigerian man Paul Gabriel Amos who livesin Singapore bypassed the fickle and often suspicious end user and tried to get Citibank to directly transfer twenty seven million to an Ethiopian bank account.
Amos was arrested trying to enter the US after “after several banks where the conspirators held accounts returned money to Citibank, saying they had been unable to process the transactions, and an official of the National Bank of Ethiopia said that it did not recognize the transactions”.
I am kinda suprised that this didn’t work, you know with the financial crisis and banks these days being more then happy to just hand out money to anyone.
Then you have the flipside of Nigerian scams, the scambaiters. These thriving communities fight back and make the scammers jump through ridiculous hoops by offering a whiff of money.
Whilst the stories are indeed hilarious and seemingly simple to pull off, I’d advise against scambaiting without first taking the neccesary precautions.
I personally have never engaged in scambaiting but I’ll admit the thought has on more then one occasion crossed my mind. Fortunately for me it’s been months since I received a 419 email, probably due to Gmail’s diligent spam filtering.
We can call them victims, we can pretend they are innocent and we can shake our fingers at those nasty Nigerians for all the world of good it will do but at the end of the day we can’t ignore the cold hard fact that if these ‘victims’ weren’t greedy buggers to begin with, they’d have never of been scammed in the first place.
Does that absolve the Nigerians? Of course it bloody doesn’t, but it’s a damn sight easier then trying to bring faceless scammers to justice in a country that clearly doesn’t care.