Why Otherwise Smart Folks Fall For Nigerian Scam

Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 2:00 AM | Leave Comment

The term scam or fraud commonly includes activities such as theft, embezzlement, money laundering, bribery and extortion. Fraud essentially involves using deception to dishonestly make a personal gain for oneself and/or create a loss for another. Fraud can mean many things and result from many varied relationships between offenders and victims.

Because of the commonly available personal technology owned and used by consumers, fraud includes e-crime by people using computers and technology to commit crimes, e.g. phishing, spamming, copyright crimes, hacking, social engineering frauds.

Advance Fee (“419”) / Overpayment / Fake Check Fraud

The Nigerian scam, as it is called, has become the most advanced scam of all. However, it’s still the kind of scam that some folks fall for head over heels as if they are in love and will marry the scam.

An advance-fee fraud has greed written all over it on the part of the not-so-innocent consumer who is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain.

There are many variations of this scam, including

  1. Over-invoiced goods
    Most folks would trash the email but greed might prevail over the existence of some folks and would answer the email favorably to the scums generating the scam.
  2. Money left to you in a will
    Folks who reply favorably to the scums realize very well that it can’t be true. They might know that the person who has written out the will has no connection to the receiver but still will fall for the scam.
  3. Payment for an auction
    Payment for an auction purchase with a check larger than the amount required, asking for change to be returned. This is probably the dumbest scam the not-so-innocent consumers fall for.

In all these three cases, the not-so-innocent consumer is then asked to come up with money for customs, duties or bribes in order to receive their portion of the money. This typically will happen several times – excuses and amounts will vary.

In some cases, the scammer will forward a seemingly real check to the consumer and ask the not-so-innocent human to deposit the check and wire some of the proceeds back to the scammer, while keeping the balance. The check will turn out to be fake and the target consumer will be responsible for the entire balance.

Because of the overwhelming greed that has prevailed over the human species of the consumer, the person receiving the check goes to the bank, deposit the check, get a certified check from the bank and send it to the scammer.

Greed does not let the person think to wait a few days so that the check can be converted in cash and deposited in the person’s account. That way the consumer would know whether the check was legitimate or bounced.

What’s the number 419?

The number “419” refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.

Remember the Spanish Prisoner scam?

Very similar to the Nigerian scam, there used to be something called the Spanish Prisoner scam in which the fraudster (used to be called trickster) tells the victim that a rich prisoner promised to share treasure with the victim in exchange for money to bribe prison guards.

An older version of the scam went by the name the Letter From Jerusalem. Believe it or not it started by the end of the 18th century. So these scams are not something new. It’s just so happens that personal technology and the Internet have given it the hundred and thousand times boost that is in existence today.


Federal law requires banks to make deposited funds available within a certain time period, but this does not mean a deposited check has cleared. If available funds are withdrawn and the check is subsequently returned unpaid, the customer is responsible for repaying the withdrawn amount.

What kind of individuals are affected?

All individuals can be conned. Fraud does not discriminate against race, creed, religion, national origin, etc. Because of the Internet and the usage of emails, anyone can be affected, some seriously than others. If the individual has valuable property (cash, goods, information or services), then fraud may be attempted.

Why do people commit fraud?

Of course, to make money. Fraudsters have a lot more technical ability than innocent consumers. They have opportunities to commit fraud. All individuals, especially senior citizens, are perceived suitable targets for fraud. Fraud is likely to result from a combination of two factors: motivation (to make money) and opportunity (innocent consumers).

In a Nutshell
In all cases, ignore and delete the email. If you receive a phone call, just hang up. If you want, you can do some sleuthing and

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