Since the early 1980’s a worldwide scam has been running under successive governments of Nigeria. The scam is referred to as “Advance Fee Fraud”, “4-1-9- Fraud” and the “Nigerian Connection”. The term 4-1-9 comes from the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code which outlaws fraudulent activities, though, not all 4-1-9 scams originate in Nigeria, some originate from other West African nations such as Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, etc. In most cases, 419 emails from other countries are also Nigerians, since the central office of the scam involved is Nigeria.
It is estimated that five billion US$ (as of 1996) has been collected from charitable organizations, small businesses and individuals targeted in the United States and Western Europe. Nowadays, scam artists are shifting their targets to new countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as Asia.
The scam operates in the following manner: You receive a unsolicited fax, e-mail, or letter from someone you have never heard of, promising large amounts of money in exchange for a little assistance. Some of these messages purporting to come from someone who claims to work for the Nigerian Central Bank or from the Nigerian government.
Common variations on the scam include crude oil deals, someone died and left you money in his will, money cleaning where the scam artists have a lot of currency that needs to be cleaned by red-mercury chemical before it can be used, money available for deposit in your bank. The scammer may remind his victim of the fact that he has the authority to transfer government funds out of Nigeria.
The intended victim is reassured of the authenticity of the arrangement by forged or false documents bearing apparently official Nigerian government letterheads, seals, as well as false letter of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. In some cases the scam artist would arrange for a meeting between the victim and “Government Officials” in real or fake government offices.
Their targets include among others, religious organizations by claiming that they represent a church or mosque. At some point, the victim is asked to pay up front “Advance Fee”. After that fee is paid, “Complications” start to arise. They require still more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both.
The messages may claim that the recipient’s name was recommended by a respected source, it also claims that a large some of money, normally over US# 10 million, is not accessible for various reasons, and that the recipient’s help is required to release the fund, for which a substantial commission, typically 25 percent is promised, and that 5 percent of the funds will be used to pay transaction costs and the sender will retain the remaining 70 percent. The message usually gives guarantees that the transaction is “risk free”, and asked to treat the deal as strictly confidential.
Countless number of individuals, companies, clergymen have fallen prey to the scheme. It is reported that a Brazilian businessman was duped in 2001 of US$ 181 million. Tampa, Florida resident lost US$ 400,000 to the Nigerian Scam. A New Zealand paper reported in November 2002 that a businessman was duped of US$ 4 million. A bishop in Los Angeles lost US$ 2 million to this scam, and the list goes on.
In one of the scam scenarios, the scam artists claim that a special chemical is needed to clean the money that have been defaced in order to make the money usable. The trick requires that the victim forward advance money for the purpose of buying new supplies of the chemical for cleaning the money.
In all of those cases, the victims of 419 Scam could not count on much assistance from local authorities. The chance to recover any funds is very little.
During the year 2002, the Financial Action Task Force (FATT), an investigative arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), threatened to impose financial sanctions against Nigeria to crack down on money laundering.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the United States launched a clampdown on the funding of terrorist groups, in particular warned Nigeria of action if the deadline (December 15, 2002) is not met.
Under pressure, the government of Nigeria met the deadline by passing law to crackdown on 419 scams.
The United States Secret Service has instructed anyone in the US, who lost funds to the Nigerian Scam to forward appropriate written documentation to: U.S. Secret Service, Financial Crime Division, 950 H Street, NW, Washington D.C. 2001. or telephone (202) 406-5850, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
If you received a letter, but have not lost any monies to the scam, please fax a copy of that letter to (202) 406-5031.
If you reside outside the United States, you should report it to your local authorities and send documentation via fax to the United States Secret Service at the above-mentioned address.
WARNING: 419 Scam can be dangerous. Victims may be asked to travel to Nigeria to complete a transaction or see the “Red Mercury” cleaning process. They are often told that a visa to Nigeria is not required to enter the country. Entering Nigeria without a valid visa is a serious offence. The scam artists may bribe airport officials to pass the victim through immigration and customs. The victim’s illegal entry may then be used as a leverage to coerce the victim into releasing funds. In certain cases, violence and threats of physical harm have been used to pressure their victims. In June 1995, an American citizen was murdered in Lagos, Nigeria, while pursuing a 419 scam, and many other foreign nationals have been reported as missing.
This website is researched, edited, published and maintained by Gabriel Sawma.
©Copyright 2005 Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
For interviews about international law covered on this site, or for interviews about the Middle East and Islamic laws, or about the Nigerian Scam, please contact the author. Tel 609-275-6321; Fax 609-275-0355 or Email email@example.com
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