Why is Nigeria famous for the '419' scam?

Correct me If I’m wrong but I believed that Russians/Eastern Europeans would have gained notoriety during the 90s and 00s for this due to the fact that computer crime of all kinds is literally state sponsored and there does seem to be a better infrastructure for the internet than in West Africa.

Well only Nigerians can do 419 scams as only in Nigera is "obtain benefit by deception " crimes act section 419.

But it is Nigeria that does the common fee up front scams…

  • I have a deceased estate with your name on it… Just send me $100 to allow the bank account transfer

  • I will come to be your loving husband, just pay for my broken leg, my fathers medicine, my airline tickets

  • I am on an oil rig, I have paid you, can you send to Africa my next port of call, or now my friend collects the item you are selling

  • I am not in the apartment to show it to you, but if you pay deposit I will post you the key.

We used get these on a monthly basis until our IT staff put some filters on our systems. We all thought them hugely entertaining. :smiley:

Apparently that’s exactly how they’re supposed to be to non-guillable individuals. Not exactly sure if it makes sense but the scammers try to write them in very crude language and usejuvenile story to ward of any serious concern that someone would raise from such an email to their relatives.

As I understand it there is a whole hierarchy of scammers who work as a team. At the bottom is a barely literate teenager who sends the messages from an internet cafe in the early hours (when they can get very cheap rates). These messages are purely cut and paste.

If you respond in any way - “Yes; sounds good, tell me more” or “Fuck off scammer” it matters not as they now know they have a live link. Any of these are passed up the chain, and will give rise to follow ups that can sound plausible, even to a sceptic.

If they get a bite, then it is passed up the chain again to someone who can keep up a correspondence and if the get any money (and one in ten thousand will do) they will then raise the stakes for more and more money.

Ten years or so ago, there was a queue of people, mostly Americans, waiting outside a remote Scottish post office who were expecting to collect $thousands from a Nigerian Barrister.

You’re wrong. The “Nigerian scam” long predates the breakup of the Soviet Union and even computers. The first documented 419 scam goes back to 1920.

Such scams go back well before the internet was well established and used other methods. I received my first Nigerian letter by fax in the late 1980s. I also received a scam letter by snail mail after visiting Madagascar in 1985.

In the early 1990s virtually all 419 scam emails I received purported to come from Nigeria itself. Since then they have diversified greatly. The majority I find in my spam filter are still supposedly from various African countries, but they can come from pretty much anywhere (or state they do). I have received 419 emails in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Chinese.

The scams have evolved over time. Originally the scams were supposedly some Nigerian official or banker who somehow had amassed an enormous amount of money in an account that he had to launder somehow. Then they were from individuals who could range from royalty to widows of recently deceased leaders (I go one from the widow of Yasser Arafat) to victims of cancer to orphans who received an unexpected bequest. Once I got one from a soldier in Iraq who had found a trove of cash. Then I started to get ones that claimed some unknown relative of mine had been killed in some African country and I was evidently the heir to their millions. Later I got lottery scams, often from the UK claiming I had won millions in a lottery I had never entered.

Oddly, I have never received on that purported to come from a former Soviet Republic. Maybe they think prospective victims will be more wary of contacts from there than those from third-world countries.

What about the India/Pakistan IRS scam phone calls. My mother has gotten some and replies with “try harder next time, asshole” and its great. I read somewhere that a huge operation was shut down, but more are springing up.

I got my first one in 1994 when I was working in a Japanese trading company. They were mostly snail mail back then. We were listed on various publications so I presume that’s where they obtained our contact information.

“Why is Nigeria famous for the ‘419’ scam?”

Because . . . Nigerians. :rolleyes:

“We have your husband! Send money or else!” :rolleyes:

Let me give a real anecdote amplifying what Colibri said. A sort of friend of mine Nick is no hick. He has a first class honours degree from Cambridge. But he also has had MS for several decades (although it does not seem to progress) and my physician DIL tells me that there can be cognitive involvement.

So sometime in the 1980s, well before the web, Nick gets a letter in the mail from Nigeria. I don’t know the details of the letter, but whatever it was fell hook, line and sinker. They played him like a fiddle. Over the decades, they screwed several hundred thousand dollars out of him. He lost his wife, his house, was declared incompetent and still appears to believe, after 30 years, that he will get his millions.

It’s to select the most gullible targets. That way, they don’t waste time interacting with people who would catch on to the scam and back out.

Tis sad indeed. The same happened with my friend and no matter what I told him that it is a scam and you will not get millions. He showed me “official papers” he received and I told him I can do the same with my computer and printer.

So I asked him where’s the money then and he said they have to pay off some joe to clear the transactions. Then I asked how many so far? There’s another one right? It keeps going so stop sending the money. He got mad and left.

Never saw him again and that was years ago.

Anecdote to add to the proposition that the hoaky English is part of the scam. It is a “broken wing” to weed out the clever and to make the scammers look vulnerable and dumb to the targets.

Dealt with one such scam that got 7 million out of one bloke. Once you get past the initial letter, they try to keep the narrative going to milk more money out of you. To the thing afloat with endless plausible demands for more fees, the Nigerians populated the scam with a suite of sock puppet “villains” who were interrupting the big pay day, supported with things like fake court documents written in perfect English. They can write just fine.

One website which covers a lot of these scams is: https://quatloosia.blogspot.com/ and this sub-forum: INTERNET – LOTTO – NIGERIAN SCAMS

If you know someone who’s caught up, it may help to show them the forum with thousands of similar scams. You could probably find in there the exact same email they originally received.

A good site here:


My dad’s second wife was scammed by a 419 scam. She didn’t lose as much as many people because she wasn’t particularly wealthy but the thousands she lost cleared her out.

The twist in her situation, which is something I haven’t heard of in other stories, is that the person(s) involved used not only the promise of financial gain to string her along, but also hints at a romantic relationship.

From Financial Fraud

Also, corruption is part of day-to-day society, so people there may be more adept at working the system:

Decoding the chaos of Lagos.

A variant goes back hundreds of years

Even though the same, basic scam has been around a while, it might be that the conditions in Nigeria were ripe for it to be a massive success there. Perhaps the culture, economic conditions, and early success meant it spread like wildfire there. It could be that in other cultures, the first scammer couldn’t have recruited other scammers as easily, so the scam would be smaller in scale.