Nigerian Scams: How to Catch a Scammer

nigerian scams
By Ben Hartwig
21 December, 2018

As time goes on, the bad guys are getting better and better at tricking you out of your money online. The newest batch of bad scams are originating from Nigeria, and everyone from millennials to baby boomers and your grandparents is subject to end up a victim. Here’s some important info about these scammers, how they operate and what you need to know to avoid getting played a fool:

Who Are They?

These scams originally came out of Nigeria and were called “Nigerian 419” scams, as 419 is the Nigerian criminal code that says the scam is illegal. However, they can now originate from just about anywhere in the world.

Where Do They Operate?

The offices these scammers use can often be something as simple as a public Internet café abroad. Some underground scammers, however, will lease an entire office building to appear as a legit business and hire people to send the scams all over the world, creating quite a lucrative practice for all of them involved.

How Does It Work?

These Nigerian scammers will often send a message or email unsolicited from a number or address you’ve never seen before. They will then weave a tall tale about how they are in the middle of a civil war, have been cheated out of an inheritance, are suffering from severe government restrictions, or otherwise are unable to get their money out of the country without your help.

These scammers will play on your emotions and talk about how their family is starving or sick and must get the money to even survive as if they’re issuing a call for help. They will then ask you for help in getting their money released to them, and in exchange, they will give you a large chunk of the money just for helping them get the money freed.

Oftentimes, they will ask you to send your bank account information so you can have the money wired to you and then send it minus your reward to their bank account. The problem is that they will require fees or upfront money in order to verify your bank account. Then, as the process goes along, they’ll add more and more fees that end up totaling quite a large sum. As long as their victim is willing to send money, they will keep tacking on these fees.

signs of a scam

Warning Signs

  1. The first warning sign of a Nigerian scam is receiving any kind of communication from someone you don’t know. They will often claim to be writing from a country that has recently received news coverage for being under duress.
  2. These emails and messages will often include a long, detailed account of the hardships they are going through because they can’t get their money and how they need your help to gain access to it.
  3. Somewhere within the message, they will offer a significant reward or fee for your help in getting the money released, which often involves giving them your bank account information.
  4. They will also require payment of fees in order to get the money moved to your account, which they will ask you to pay upfront and may ask you to wire the fees to them in order to get the process started.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed

  1. The first thing you should remember is to never, ever give your personal information, credit card or bank account details to anyone you don’t know personally. Remember these scammers play on human emotion to make you want to help and make a significant amount of money in the process.
  2. Transferring money for another party is money laundering and a federal criminal offense. So remember that what they’re asking you to do is illegal in the first place.
  3. Don’t ever give up-front payment to another party, even if it’s via bitcoin or a prepaid card. You will never be able to recoup these costs.
  4. When you receive an email out of the blue asking you for help or money, they may be posing as a legitimate company. Do a reverse email search and make sure they are who they say they are – Google the company and contact them directly to research them and make sure they are really the ones contacting you. Don’t ever use the contact information sent with the message – as this is directed straight to the scammers and they are very good at posing as the real thing!
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