Nigerian Scams: Do People Really Fall For This?

By: Debra Stiens

This article describes how the scammers try to defraud people. Links are given to sites dealing with this issue.
Does this look familiar?

FROM THE DESK OF BARRISTER CHIDI OBI November: 15th 2002. Attn: Managing Director

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am Barrister Chidi Obi, the legal adviser to Mr.Mohammed Abacha, the heir apparent to the estate of the late Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, late General Sani Abacha. I am contacting you due to the present situation as regard the special panel set up by the new democratic administration (spearheaded by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was jailed by my client's father during his tenure for an attempted coup plot against his administration). An anti-corruption bill was recently passed in the country (apparently targeted on my client's family) to recover all supposed looted money kept by the Abacha's family both abroad and locally. This exercise has been going on for some time since the demise of my client's father.

Sounds dire doesn't it? This type of email usually goes on to explain that the vast amount of money needs to be moved (secretly, of course) out of his country to a bank (preferably yours), so that the corrupt government, government agency, department, etc. cannot get their hands on it. They ask for the information to move this money to your bank. In return, you will receive a sizable percentage of the total amount for being so helpful.

Many of you, no doubt, recognize this type of email as the infamous 'Nigerian Scam'. And when you receive this, you can do one of two things: delete it, or send it to the authorities that investigate this particular scam. However, there are still people out there who fall for this and wind up losing money. And a few have gone missing or lost their lives. I still find it incredible that there are people who believe these stories. Unfortunately, it is true; some people do.

Those who answer these emails are instructed to send their bank account information to these scammers. Then, they wait. The next time they hear anything, it isn't what they expected (that the transfer was successful and the money is now sitting in their account). Something untoward has happened: there has been a delay in processing the paperwork; questions are being asked; government officials' palms need to be greased. Money is requested from them to get things going again. Thinking the amount (usually a few thousand dollars) is a pittance compared to what they will get back, they send the money and wait some more. This becomes like a tennis match: back and forth; more delays; they need more money, the money is sent, etc., etc. When the victim's funds run out, or they begin to threaten the scammers, the correspondence stops. And, of course, the promised fortune never materializes.

Sometimes a church or religious organization is contacted by a "wealthy official" who wants to leave his fortune to them. The same scenario is played out. Some of these cons have gone so far as to have the victims fly to their country to meet with the "officials" who are causing the delays. This is where it can get very dangerous. Things got so out of control, the Nigerian Government, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, issued a statement disavowing any participation in these scams.

There are many variations of these emails and letters. Yes, some are sent by snail mail and actually started back in the 1920's. And Nigeria is not the only country used: Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Zaire, Ghana, and even Afghanistan, among many others have been used. But the intent is always the same, no matter what 'circumstances' prompted the writer to contact you for help: they want your money. Period.

These emails can be difficult to trace; the scammers are adept at hiding their tracks. Authorities, however, have been able to trace the majority to Nigeria, though, as stated above, some can come from other countries as well. This has become the third largest industry in Nigeria. Sad to say that monies lost are never recovered.

In recent months, several people have been caught and charged with running these scams. But, there are still a great many out there that are still at it, as my email accounts can attest. Authorities work around the clock to track these people down, but it's become a never-ending job.

A search on Google will give you many sites with information about Nigerian Scams. Here are just a few:

For a good presentation with examples and links:

This link gives a chilling story about one hapless victim who was kidnapped:,23008,3396765,00.html

The official 419 Coalition Site ("419": after the relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria). This site gives Five Rules to Remember and instructions on what to do:

This site has a discussion forum and a link to post the scam email you received, as well as many other links to even more information:

Even the United States Postal Service has a site dedicated to these scams:

For an email gallery with a list of the different names, and circumstances used:

Another good site:

Of course, The Secret Service has it's own informative site dealing with this problem. If you have been victimized, they provide an address where you can send written documentation or, if you wish, an email, at the bottom of the page. If you have not lost any money, you can fax a copy of the letter you received at the number given:

The majority of people who receive this type of correspondence don't fall for the scam. But there are still enough gullible people out there who do. Recently, in the Charlotte Metro area of North Carolina (where I live) 36 people fell for this scheme. That is just in this small area of this state. Now, try to think in terms of the rest of the billions of people in the world and the fact that these scammers also use snail mail...well, I guess you get the idea.

This type of scam gives new meaning to the phrase "A fool and his money are soon parted." However, the more people are informed beforehand, the less likely these people will profit.

About the Author

Debra Stiens is the owner of New Freedom Marketing at where you can find information and resources for your online business. Subscribe to Mind Your Bizness at: Subscribe to New Freedom Marketing Newsletter at:

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