Posted by: anglopole | March 8, 2009

Nigerian 419 for dummies.

“Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am fine today and how are you? I hope this letter will find you in the best of health.  I am Prince Joe Eboh, the Chairman of the “Contract Award Committee”, of the “Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)”, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).  NDDC was set up by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha who died on 18th June 1998, to manage the excess revenue accruing from the sales of Petroleum and its allied products as a domestic increase in the petroleum products to develop the communities
in the Niger Delta Oil producing areas. The estimated annual revenue for 1999 was $45 Billion US Dollars… “

I am sure there are very few internet users who have never received an email like the one I quote above.  It’s, of course, an example of a 419 scam, which originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based Nigerian economy declined. The number “419” refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: “Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating”) dealing with fraud.

You might be wondering why on earth I am writing about this in this blog? After all, the blog is to be about my perception of the UK,  England especially and not my stay in Nigeria or relations with the Nigerian people. However, it’s happened to me on a few occasions that some ‘fans’ of my blog threw the 419 problem in my face, so to say, in response to the way I view various aspects of the British culture, life, politics, etc. To be perfectly honest, I find this kind of reaction pretty amusing and immature, as I never attempt to claim it is only Great Britain that battles with all kinds of difficulties. I can see no reason why I should idealize the British society and living here. I write about things that I see, read about, experience and that is not going to change. (sic!) As for the 419 scam, both myself and my Nigerian husband have received dozens of such letters and also met 419 people in Lagos trying to dupe us into partying with some money. The scammers are active there and even more in countries like the UK. That is a fact.

In my opinion, classic 419 scammers are far less dangerous than professional hackers or identity thieves ( Justice secretary Jack Straw becomes latest victim of email hackers ). All they usually do is some harvest for email addresses and send their fraudulent letters to potential victims. The funny thing is that inasmuch as those scam letters are more than common, still hundreds of Brits fall for them! According to Which? (the British consumer organization):

– More than 28 million of 60 million citizens had been exposed to one or more scams.

– Five million of those 28 fell victim to a scam.

– The most popular scam related to “an automated phone call that invites people to claim a prize. A third of adults have received such a call and two million have responded, usually by calling a premium-rate number, which can cost up to GBP 1.50 ($2.70 U.S.) a minute.”







Well, there are a few conclusions one can draw from such situations, I think:

1. The scammers (those active in the UK are mostly British citizens, btw.) are very shrewd tacticians in duping people

2. The scam victims are greedy, naive and rather hardly clever people.

Surely, both can be true at the same time, but, I dare say the latter is always the case. Why would someone of an average intelligence and common sense disclose their personal details to strangers they have never met or, worse even, send them any amount of cash????

“People are just insane – beyond greedy!” – I read the statement somewhere and think it’s an accurate description of those who fall for 419 and other scams. So, instead of telling me there are many Nigerian scammers in the UK or the USA, some people should perhaps think why the 419s prosper in these countries so much….



 The piece for the scammers can easily be made smaller – SIMPLY DELETE THE SCAM LETTERS YOU GET!


EDIT.: The new name of fraud is MADOFF and its an American product … – $65 bln of stolen money! From now on scams, frauds, etc. should probably be called MADOFF as all Nigerian 419s put together, as annoying as they are, cannot boast with stealing this amount of money.

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