What Are 419/ Nigerian Scams? (And How To Protect Yourself)
If you’ve ever been scammed through a 419/ Nigerian scheme, you likely won’t forget it.
If it happened to someone you know or love, you probably gave them a lecture about how it never should have happened in the first place. Though this seems reasonable, the person who has been scammed usually feels a bad enough mix of frustration and embarrassment. After-all, no one wants their money taken through an illegal scam, but the worst part can be how humiliating it feels to have your trust taken advantage of. However, when preventing scammers, knowledge is power and the facts are that the kind hearted can be preyed on, despite warnings from friends.
What exactly is a 419/ Nigerian scam? Well, if the number 419 is throwing you, don’t worry. It stems from Nigeria’s Criminal Code which outlaws this type of scam. The scams are still loosely called “Nigerian” scams, although they have now gone global and can come from anywhere in the world.
Who Is At Risk:
Have you ever used Craigslist? What about a dating site? Are you on any Social Media websites? How about email, do you use email? Yes, having even one measly email account can be a surefire way to have a scam show up in your inbox. Though email servers have gotten savvier about detecting such scams and sending it to your “spam” folder, there are breakthrough emails. Social Media and dating sites have become popular ways of working the scam as well.
The Scam’s Initial Set-Up:
While the email version of this type of scam tries to appeal to your greed,
Example: “I have been granted an inheritance of $200,000,000 USD but there is a coup in my country and I need someone to claim the money for me. It is trapped in my country’s central bank. I will share half the money with you, if you can help me access the funds.”
Maybe this reads to you like automatic fiction, but promising large amounts of cash, for relatively little effort, can lead some to take a leap of faith and follow the emails instructions (which we will discuss this more in the next section).
Other 419 scams are more subtle. Perhaps you meet a great guy or gal through a dating site and begin corresponding. You talk on the phone a few times and he or she is very worldly and saying romantic things that appeal to the side of you that’s lonely or longing for kind words and compliments. You know (or think you know) that the person you’re talking to lives in the United States but is traveling for work. You’re smitten through your brief acquaintance and this gets your guard down enough to consider their request for a small amount of money, due to a problem with their credit card overseas.
Craigslist can be a hotbed of Nigerian scams. Maybe you spot a beautiful rental in an area of town you know is outside your budget. The home is $500 less, per month, than anywhere else in the area. You want this home and so does your family, but the owner is on vacation and so you wire them your deposit so you don’t miss out.
The most heartbreaking are the 419 scams that tug at your heart strings. Perhaps they make it feel as if this is your chance to help someone through a good deed. The best scams, after-all, make you think you’re not being scammed at all!
The Financial Repercussions:
These four examples show just how varied the scams can be. The way you’ll be stolen from and scammed also changes. Sometimes the scammer will ask for your bank and account information to ‘wire’ you money that will never come. Other times, they’ll ask for small amounts of money send to them, which they will pay back (they promise, they promise!). The person scamming you might be a scammer from Nigeria, to Sierra Leone, or Iraq, etc.
Initially, besides the humiliation of being scammed and taken advantage of there’s the added frustration of trying to secure your bank account and funds you might have been scammed out of.
Warning Signs To Look For:
The language in the emails or messages sounds overly flowery or formal… something about it doesn’t sound like how people talk around you.
You are being asked to wire or send money through a money service (Western Union, etc.), to someone you haven’t met face to face or don’t know well.
You’re being offered a financial reward or monies for helping the person in question access their funds, and (if they’re borrowing money) they offer to reimburse you.
You are verifying information through phone numbers they provided you with- which are likely part of their scam.
It sounds too good to be true. If that’s the case, take a step back and consult your most trusted and level headed confidant. Check snopes.com or background check the information the person gave you through socialcatfish.com. Ask your bank or credit card company if it sounds like a scam.
However, mostly, never ever wire or receive money from a stranger in hopes of helping or direct financial gain.