Nigerian 419 Scams – 10 Surprising Facts You Must Know


Nigerian 419 Scams are some of the most common scams online, and thousands of gullible people have become victims of these scams. Even today, though awareness levels have increased, people continue to fall victims to different versions of the Nigerian 419 email scam. Advance fee scams, also commonly known as “Nigerian” scams, have been around in various forms for decades. In fact, they predate the Internet and email. Nigerian scammers still use surface mail and faxes as well as email and social media. This article discusses the known and unknown aspects of the Nigerian 419 Scams.

See Also: All You Must Know about Boko Haram in Nigeria

1 Section 419

The Nigerian 419 scam is based on the section 419 (four one nine) of the Nigerian Penal code which deals with fraud. Though the variations of the 419 scam may originate from any part of the world, it is believed that most of the scammers who send the mails promising millions of dollars in easy money are based in different parts of Nigeria. Due to high unemployment rates, many young people from Nigeria find this an easy way to make quick money. It should be noted however that it’s only a few Nigerians that engage in this type of activity and is not peculiar to Nigeria or Nigerians. Nations with a high incidence of this fraud include; the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Nigerian 419 scam

Here are the top 25 fraudulent countries, from most fraudulent to least fraudulent

  1. Latvia
  2. Egypt
  3. United States
  4. Mexico
  5. Ukraine
  6. Hungary
  7. Malaysia
  8. Colombia
  9. Romania
  10. Philippines
  11. Greece
  12. Brazil
  13. China
  14. Indonesia
  15. Russia
  16. Singapore
  17. Nigeria
  18. Canada
  19. Portugal
  20. Switzerland
  21. United Kingdom
  22. India
  23. Netherlands
  24. France
  25. Austria

The biggest surprise here is Nigeria. For all of the noise Nigeria gets with their e-mail scams (not all of which originate in Nigeria), we’re not seeing a lot of fraud from Nigerian IP addresses.

2 Origins

The letter promising the unsuspecting internet user millions of dollars is usually sent by email today to the commonly used email address. However, variants of this scam have been in existence even before email was widely used. Other modes of communication that are used are letters , flyers, SMS messages, instant messaging and comments.


3 Luring Victims

The scammer makes use of the basic weakness of human beings, the lure of easy money, becoming rich overnight without much effort. When people are made an offer which sounds too good to be true, most people do not bother to verify if the information is correct, most of them will blindly believe in the offer, ignoring the tell-tale signs that the offer is a scam.

4 Victims profile

The victim is usually a person who uses the internet only for basic correspondence, and is not aware of the dark side of human nature. Most people only meet other people of similar background in the course of their daily routine activities, and the chances of being scammed offline are relatively low. They will take the statements of the scammer at face value.

5) Scammer profile.

Most of the Nigerian 419 scammers are experts in understanding human psychology, the lure of easy money, and how few people are able to resist the temptation. They are mostly unemployed people with limited opportunities available to utilize their time productively. Though many scammers are based in Nigeria, variants of this scam are found in all countries.

6) Use of emails

Most of the individuals send the Nigerian 419 scam letters by email as it is very cost-effective, with an email costing next to nothing. Typically emails are sent to thousands or millions of email ids depending on the email list available with the Nigerian 419 scammer. Comparatively, postal mail and SMS are much more expensive, so only few scammers use these modes of communication.

7) Collecting emails

Since the Nigerian 419 scam emails are sent to thousands or millions of email ids, the scammers have perfected the art of finding new emails for sending these scam emails to. Often the free email ids will expire or become invalid after a period of time, so emails sent to these email ids will bounce. So the Nigerian 419 scammers are constantly harvesting new email ids from various sources, as soon as the email id has been published online.


8) Free emails

Most of the Nigerian and other scam emails are sent using free email ids like yahoo, Gmail, outlook, opera mail,inbox which are free with little verification of the identity of the person opening the account. Since these free email services have millions of accounts, it is difficult to distinguish between genuine account holders and spammers. The email id is used for sending thousands of emails at a time, and is then no longer used.

9) Spam filters

Since free email ids are used for sending the scam emails, it is difficult for spam filtering services to block the domain name, as it would cause hardship to all other free account holders. This is a clear-cut case of abuse of email, but the most drastic action that can be taken against the email sender is shutting down the account. There is no domain name specified in the scam email which could be blocked by the spam filters.

10) Effectiveness

Though most experienced internet users are likely to discard the Nigerian 419 scam email immediately after scanning the email, there are many gullible victims who take the email at face value, and think that the scam offer is true.