The Nigerian 419s

Those ridiculous scam e-mails claiming you’re the recipient of a ton of money may have originated from Nigeria. A 419 Nigerian code made these e-mails illegal. But at least 69 other countries are the origins of these scams.

It’s just mind-exploding how millions and millions of dollars are bilked out of people who fall for these scams. Some of the messages are downright cheesy. Others scream SCAM! Louder than an air horn.

But whether the accompanying messages to these e-mails are cheesy and melodramatic or more stoic, they absolutely should trigger one question to the user: “Why am I more special than the two billion other people on this planet who have e-mail accounts that I was selected to receive all this money?”

A 419 scam message might go as follows:

My Dear Friend:

I have a most urgent notice, and I do apologize if this causes you any inconvenience. But the sensitivity and privacy of this most pressing transaction necessitates this communication. I found your e-mail address via the Nigerian Import/Export Affiliation Assembly. You are needed to help me execute the following top secret transaction, and for your help, you will receive a significant sum of this money…

These kinds of messages originally were sent out via fax—and if you can believe—snail mail—and scads of people fell for the scams.

The story that the sender tells varies, but the common thread is that a gigantic amount of money has been left behind by a deceased nobleman.

It’s just that the sender is in desperate need of a U.S. person whom they can trust with this money—someone whose bank account will hold the transacted funds. Conduct this helpful task, and the recipient gets a big fat piece of the pie.

And it doesn’t occur to the person who falls for this fraud that none of the tens of thousands of Americans who oversee heavy financial transactions for a living, who are financial analysts or attorneys, all got bypassed for this task of making the arrangements for some foreigner they don’t know from Adam.

The recipient—could be a checker at Walmart, a limo driver, chef, housewife, retiree—someone with absolutely NO formal experience in handling massive financial transactions—falls for the scam!

On average, the loss per sucker to these scams is $3,000.

There are those of us who simply delete these dumb scam e-mails the microsecond we see the subject line. There are others who will open the e-mail (don’t ask me why; abnormal psychology is not my field).

Now I give some concessions to someone who’s been living in the Amazon jungle and has recently been introduced to the Internet.

But where have the people, who open these e-mails, been all this time? I’m always hearing jokes about the Nigerian e-mail scams. They come up in talk shows, news articles…how can we NOT know about them? Yet people open these e-mails. Many then delete them. While others continue to move forward and get stung.

This means there’s a lot of users out there who need a list of red flags:

  • First off, keep your browsers up to date.
  • Use anti-phishing software from your browser providers.
  • Delete e-mails that have dramatic subject lines or speak of money waiting for you.
  • The sender, claiming to by your bank or credit card company, wants your financial information. I’m not going to even tell you to call the bank before you make the next move, because the second someone wants your financial information, it’s game over: delete the e-mail!
  • If you don’t recognize the sender, delete the message.
  • If the sender wants other personal information like a password or birthdate, delete it.
  • If you obey the above rules, you won’t make the mistake of filling out any forms inside an e-mail message.
  • Another layer of protection is to install a special toolbar in your browser that will detect fraudulent websites that want your personal information.

Every month check your credit/debit and bank account statements for any unauthorized charges and report them immediately.