But they more often than not originate in Nigeria where, one has to suppose, they form an important part of the economy, thanks to lots of bribes payoffs to people who should be putting a stop to them.
A little while back, I had a 419 scum-mail purporting to be from Caroline Jabah in Darfur.
That’s supposedly her, caressing a wall and dark-haired (left), and trying not to fall down the stairs, and blond.
‘Building a robotic tractor’
Nigerian 419 criminals have been sucking people in for years and you`d think by now, anyone who can read a newspaper, watch TV, listen to the radio or go online would be wise to them, I wrote last year.
A 65-year-old Australian widow, a first-time Net user, was seduced out of $60,000 in successive online romance scams, I said in another post.
She’d joining a website for seniors and was approached by ‘James’ who was claiming to be an English professor of physics who, “was building a robotic tractor,” said Australia`s Sunday Mail.
But James turned out to be one of a gang of Nigerian scammers targeting dating sites.
The victim emptied her husband`s retirement fund, re-mortgaged their house and took out a loan on the family car to raise the cash.
Back to Caroline
The way it works is: victims are lured into forking out ever increasing amounts as the scam continues, and I figured I’ d go along with Caroline up until the moment she asked me for my first ‘payment’.
I’d posted her earlier messages on p2pnet, and sent her the link, hoping she’d respond with a comment post.
She didn’t, but we exchanged two more emails, the second to last following my missive to her with the page links.
“Dear Jon – Nice to hear from you. I’m fine! How are you doing today? hopefully you are doing fine. I read your mail and very happy that you accept to help me. anyway, here is to hard on me and i need help for my well being. If you want to help do whatever comes out of your mind. And i will appreciate it. i’m still waiting for you. Thanks. Caroline.”
But, “i’m still waiting for you,” I said, “And I’m still waiting for you to tell me how much you need to get started. Cheers! And all the best … Jon”
Yesterday, I received this »»»
Thanks for your mail. Meanwhile, how are you doing today? Nice, I know. I may need about 280 or 300 dollars to start. I will be happy if you do it for me.
I will reward you abundantly if help me.
Nigerian Criminal Code
That would have been the start of something big — for the guys behind ‘Caroline’ – and I would have ended up in the hole for thousands of dollars.
Millions of these scum messages go out every month, and presumably, enough people are sucked in to make it worthwhile.
Says the Wikipedia »»»
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. The American Dialect Society has traced the term “419 fraud” back to 1992.
The advance-fee fraud is similar to a much older scam known as the Spanish Prisoner scam in which the trickster would tell the scam victim that a (fictitious) rich prisoner had promised to share (non-existent) treasure with the victim if the latter would send money to bribe the prison guards.
Insa Nolte, a lecturer of University of Birmingham’s African Studies Department, stated that “The availability of e-mail helped to transform a local form of fraud into one of Nigeria’s most important export industries.”
Embassies and other organizations warn visitors to various countries about 419. Countries in West Africa with warnings cited include Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, CÃ´te d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Togo, Senegal and Burkina Faso.
Countries outside of West Africa with 419 warnings cited include South Africa, Spain, and The Netherlands.
It goes on »»»
Many operations are professionally organized in Nigeria, with offices, working fax numbers, and often contacts at government offices. The victim who attempts to research the background of the offer will often find that all pieces fit perfectly together. Such scammers can often lure wealthy investors, investment groups, or other business entities into scams resulting in multi-million dollar losses. However, many scammers are part of less organized gangs or are operating independently; such scammers have reduced access to the above connections and thus have little success with wealthier investors or business entities attempting to research them, but are still convincing to middle-class individuals and small businesses, and can bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from such victims.
If the victim agrees to the deal, the other side will often send one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals. 419 scammers often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves. Often a photograph used by a scammer is not of any person involved in the scheme. Multiple “people” involved in schemes are fictitious; the author of the “WEST AFRICAN ADVANCE FEE SCAMS” article posted on the website of the Embassy of the United States in Abidjan, CÃ´te d’Ivoire believes that in many cases one person controls many fictitious personas used in scams.
A scammer will introduce a delay or monetary hurdle that prevents the deal from occurring as planned, such as “in order to transmit the money, we need to bribe a bank official. Could you help us with a loan?” or “In order for you to be allowed to be a party to the transaction, you need to have holdings at a Nigerian bank of $100,000 or more” or similar. More delays and more additional costs are added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive, convincing the victim that the money they are currently paying will be covered several times over by the payoff. Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian side, in order to pay certain fees, had to sell all belongings and borrow money on their house, or by pointing out the different salary scale and living conditions in Africa compared to the West. Much of the time, however, the needed psychological pressure is self-applied; once the victims have put money in toward the payoff, they feel they have a vested interest in seeing the “deal” through. Some victims believe that they can cheat the con artist. This idea is often encouraged by the fraudsters who write in a clumsy and uneducated style which presents them as naive and easily cheated by a sophisticated westerner.
The essential fact in all advance-fee fraud operations is that the promised money transfer never happens because the money or gold does not exist. The perpetrators rely on the fact that, by the time the victim realizes this (often only after being confronted by a third party who has noticed the transactions or conversation and recognized the scam), the victim may have sent thousands of dollars of their own money, and sometimes thousands or millions more that has been borrowed or stolen, to the scammer via an untraceable and/or irreversible means such as wire transfer.
The spam e-mails perpetrating these scams are often sent from Internet cafÃ©s equipped with satellite Internet. Recipient addresses and email content are copied and pasted into a webmail interface using a standalone storage medium, such as a memory card. Many areas of Lagos, such as Festac, contain many cyber cafÃ©s that serve scammers; many cyber cafÃ©s seal their doors during afterhours, such as from 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM, so that scammers inside may work without fear of discovery.
Nigeria also contains many businesses that provide false documents used in scams; after a scam involving a forged signature of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in summer 2005, Nigerian authorities raided a market in the Oluwole section of Lagos. The police seized thousands of Nigerian and non-Nigerian passports, 10,000 blank British Airways boarding passes, 10,000 United States money orders, customs documents, false university certificates, 500 printing plates, and 500 computers.
During the courses of many schemes, scammers ask victims to supply bank account information. Usually this is a “test” devised by the scammer to gauge the victim’s gullibility.
Scammers often request that payments be made using a wire transfer service like Western Union and Moneygram. The reason given by the scammer will usually relate to the speed at which the payment can be received and processed, allowing quick release of the supposed payoff. The real reason is that wire transfers and similar methods of payment are irreversible, untraceable and, because identification beyond knowledge of the details of the transaction is often not required, completely anonymous.
Telephone numbers used by scammers tend to come from mobile phones. In CÃ´te d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) a scammer may purchase an inexpensive mobile phone and a pre-paid SIM card without submitting subscriber information. If the scammers believed they are being traced, they discard their mobile phones and purchase new ones.
In Benin, Nigerians operate scams with Beninese cooperating in the schemes.
Some crime syndicates employ fraudsters in the United States who conclude “deals” or threaten victims who try to leave deals.
In addition to requiring payments, the fraudsters may use the victim’s bank details and signature to withdraw money for themselves. In extreme cases the victim may be lured to a place where he or she may be kidnapped, have assets plundered, and then be murdered.
My final message to Caroline?
“Hi again: Please read the story here and get back to me. Thanks, Jon.”
Will she respond, do you think?
No need to stay tuned.
Jon Newton – p2pnet
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