The classic Nigerian “419” email request to help transfer millions of dollars abroad is still circulating. Here’s what you need to know to keep your money safe.
Since the mid-nineties, the classic Nigerian scam has claimed thousands of victims and millions of dollars. The scam typically involves an offer for a share in a relatively large sum of money. All that is required by the individual is to assist the scammer with transferring the money out of the country. Although this particular scam originated in Nigeria, it has become more mainstream in recent times.
How Do Nigerian Money Scams Work?
A typical Nigerian scam generally kicks off with a bigger-than-life story about a large sum of money that needs to be transferred offshore. Scammers will often tout civil unrest, war, natural disasters and other such tales to paint a picture of urgency. Another popular story regards a large inheritance that cannot be accessed due to government restrictions or taxes. As an incentive, the scammer will offer a large percentage of the wealth for your assistance.
This con is also known as a “419 scam,” a reference to the section of Nigeria’s Criminal Code that outlaws the practice.
In order to help “transfer the money,” the scammer may ask you for bank account details, which, of course, he can use to steal your funds. In addition, the criminal may ask you to cover certain charges and taxes to release the funds or have them transferred out of the country and into your bank. The fees start out small and increase gradually as additional fabricated charges are raised. The scammer will keep pressing for as much money as he can to squeeze as much as possible out of you.
A truly seasoned criminal will even send documentation purporting to show that everything is legitimate and above board. At the end of the day, however, your money is going directly into the criminal’s account while the prospect of concluding a lucrative transaction disappears into the abyss.
419 Scam Warning Signs
There are a number of signs and characteristics one can look out for to help identify a Nigerian email scam
- The email is from an unknown sender
- The email arrives unexpectedly
- The email includes a complicated and emotional story regarding civil unrest or family issues and reasons why the money cannot be accessed
- The email requests your assistance by sending funds via money transfer services
- The request offers attractive compensation for your contribution
How to Protect Against Nigerian Scams
These days, you can’t be too careful when it comes to Nigerian scams. The following steps will help prevent you from becoming the next victim:
- First and foremost, understand that there are no get-rich-quick schemes; anyone who approaches you online with a deal that seems too good to be true is most likely going to try to rip you off
- Don’t send money or provide private bank information to anyone who approaches you online
- Don’t transfer money on behalf of a stranger that has connected with you online. Money laundering is illegal even if you don’t know you’re committing an offense
- Make sure to verify the identity of anyone who claims to represent a particular organization by searching for it online and calling them directly to verify the contact person
- Avoid arrangements that require any upfront payments by way of money order, pre-loaded cards or cryptocurrency, as these methods of payment are difficult to recover
- Many scams can be identified by searching for the names, contact details and wording in the email received
- Don’t respond if you suspect the email is a Nigerian email scam — it’s best to cut off communication and report it to the authorities
How to Report a Nigerian Scam
Dealing with international scammers is a difficult task as one needs to determine where the crime was committed in order to file a complaint and report.
In the U.S., you can report a scam to the nearest FBI field office, the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant, or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
If you are from outside the U.S. you can use this list to contact the financial regulator in your country and advise them accordingly.
Note that these agencies cannot pursue the scammers as their operations are based offshore. The information received is mainly used for statistical purposes and to warn the general public. So while you’re doing your fellow citizens a service, there’s a very slim chance they can assist with recovering your money.
What you can do If you are seeking to recover your funds, however, is contact MyChargeBack. We are an American financial services firm with a global reach. Working with over 800 banks worldwide, we have assisted clients on every continent recover millions of dollars in assets that they thought they lost for good.