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Quatloos! > Advance Fee > Exhibit: Nigerian 4-1-9 Scam

Nigerian 4-1-9 Scam

Special Forward by Jay D. Adkisson, Esq.: No less than twice in my career have I been peaceably working in my office when the phone rang, and a client said to me

"Jay, come over here RIGHT NOW. We've got this big opportunity, and we need your help, but we've got to act on it immediately, so get the hell over here as fast as you can."

Whereupon I dropped everything, dashed out the door, jumped in my car and hightailed it over to my client's office just to find out that he was about to be victimized by the

G R E A T   N I G E R I A N   S C A M   ! ! !

HOW THE SCAM BAITS

The scam starts with a bulk mailing or bulk faxing of a bunch of identical letters to businessmen, professionals, and other persons who tend to be of greater-than-average wealth. A typical letter might look like this:

Date

FROM: Mr. Ben Ahore
Central Bank of Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria
[Phone Number]

TO: Dupe
Address

Dear Sir:

        I have been requested by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to contact you for assistance in resolving a matter. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company has recently concluded a large number of contracts for oil exploration in the sub-Sahara region. The contracts have immediately produced moneys equalling US$40,000,000. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company is desirous of oil exploration in other parts of the world, however, because of certain regulations of the Nigerian Government, it is unable to move these funds to another region.

        You assistance is requested as a non-Nigerian citizen to assist the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, and also the Central Bank of Nigeria, in moving these funds out of Nigeria. If the funds can be transferred to your name, in your United States account, then you can forward the funds as directed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company.  In exchange for your accomodating services, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company would agree to allow you to retain 10%, or US$4 million of this amount.

        However, to be a legitimate transferee of these moneys according to Nigerian law, you must presently be a depositor of at least US$100,000 in a Nigerian bank which is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

        If it will be possible for you to assist us, we would be most grateful. We suggest that you meet with us in person in Lagos, and that during your visit I introduce you to the representatives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, as well as with certain officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

        Please call me at your earliest convenience at [Phone Number]. Time is of the essence in this matter; very quickly the Nigerian Government will realize that the Central Bank is maintaining this amount on deposit, and attempt to levy certain depository taxes on it.

Yours truly, etc.

Ben Ahore

Other indicia of this scam are as follows:

  • There is always an sense of urgency

  • Travel to Nigeria or some other loathesome country is requested of the dupe (although this is not necessary if the dupe is dumb enough to wire-transfer the money)

  • There are many foreign-looking documents and often actual Nigerian officials involved, sometimes even actual Nigerian government buildings are used

  • Blank letterheads and account numbers are often requested from the dupe

  • There are a variety or processing fees or bribes which must be paid ("The President of the Bank will not release the money unless you pay him a bribe.")

  • The transaction must be kept confidential ("Don't tell any US official or other such person.")

  • A Nigerian residing in the US or the UK acts as an "intermediary" or "clearing house" to close the transaction

  • Often, someone claims to be of Nigerian royalty or fame, most lately "the son of the President of Nigeria"

And, the purposes of this scam vary from time to time, such as:

  • My father left me $40 million in his will, but I have to bribe government officials to get it out

  • The Nigerian National Petroleum Company has discovered oil, and we as officials of that company want to insider acquire the land, but we need a US front man to purchase it first for us

  • We just sold a bunch of crude oil in Nigeria, but we have to bribe the banker to get it out

  • The Nigerian government overpaid on some contract, and they need a front man to get it out of the country before the government discovers its error

HOW THE SCAM GETS MONEY

In many cases, this is really a scam-within-a-scam: The Nigerians are making you think that you are going to scam the Nigerian Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria, etc., when in fact they are going to scam you out of what they are going to charge you to get in the scam, or what portion of the scam you are going to pay to make it work.

If you pay the money up-front by wire-transfer or by mail, one of two things will happen: (1) you have simply lost your money and will never see it again; or (2) and much more likely, within a couple of days you will get a phone call or letter from your contact telling you that something has gone wrong, and that to clear it up and release the funds you will have to send just a little more money. This latter scamming will go on literally for weeks and months, until you either run out of money or figure it out.

If you actually go to Nigeria, it is the same scam. You will pay some money and wait. There will be a delay, and then a requirement that you pay additional money to clear up the delay, and then another delay and more money, and so forth and so on until (1) your money is exhausted, or (2) you leave the country, or (3) you are kidnapped or murdered for the rest of your money.

A DANGEROUS SCAM

We make light of "those wacky Nigerians" but this is a physically dangerous scam.

If in response to one of these letters, you are simply so dumb that you wire-transfer or mail money to the Nigerians, then you're probably just lucky to have been this stupid -- because as will be shown you are quite a bit worse off if you try to investigate so as to protect your investment.

Persons who have traveled overseas to investigate or consummate this scam have made a tragic mistake. Once you are overseas, there are a variety of ways the Nigerians will get to you. Typically, the Nigerians will bribe the customs officials when you arrive so that you do not have to pass through Customs. This is a huge mistake, for then you are a foreigner in Nigeria without a passport -- a very serious offense. The Nigerians can then threaten to turn you into the authorities until you cough up money. Even after you have paid them money, the local police are about as likely to then run this extortion racket themselves, with the result that you will not get out of the country until they have gotten every last dime out of you, and maybe not even then.

The US Secret Service reports that in June of 1995 an American who was pursuing one of these scams was found murdered in Lagos and that numerous other persons have been reported missing.

THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IS IN ON THE SCAM

This scam is often referred to as the 4-1-9 scam, ironically after section 4-1-9 of the Nigerian Penal Code which relates to fraudulent schemes. While the Nigerian government periodically makes grand statements that it is cracking down on the scam, it isn't -- for the reason that the scam was, according to some reports, the third-largest industry in Nigeria!!! This is just too large a business for Nigeria to crack down on -- it would be like Nevada trying to close the casinos.

There have been numerous reports of high-level officials of the Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria personally participating in this scam, even to the extent of giving dupes tours through government buildings and showing them piles of cash in the vault of the Central Bank!

HIDDEN TIP-OFF

One of the funny aspects of this scam is the scam within the scam within the scam. What happens is that the particular Nigerians running this scam on any given day may not have the best command of the English language, so they hire someone to write the initial scam letter for them. Quite a few times, the person who does this leaves a "tip-off" that the letter is a scam, such as -- an actual case as shown above -- using the name Ben Ahore (been-a-whore).

FIGHTING THE NIGERIAN SCAM

The Nigerian scam is so popular that there are now various private and public groups which regularly fight the scam. Probably the two best websites regarding the Nigerian scam are those of:

Don't miss the Quatloos! Cyber-Museum of Scams & Frauds:

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Bangladesh languished at the bottom of the rankings - as it did last year - with a score of just 1.2 points, making it the country perceived as the most "highly corrupt". * * * Nigeria remained just one place ahead of Bangladesh with 1.6 points, up from 1 point last year. ~ Transparency International, 2002 Report on World Corruption.

Article

Wired Magazine Interviews Nigerian Scammer -- Wired Magazine has published an unusual interview with a former Nigerian 4-1-9 scam artist who has since moved to New York.

4-1-9 Victim

Victim of 4-1-9 Scam writes to authorities -- A letter tolaw enforcement agencies from a victim of the Nigerian 4-1-9 scam relating his story and seeking help.

Forums

Nigerian 4-1-9 Forums - Open discussion forum about advance fee fraud, such as the Nigerian 4-1-9 scam. This forum is open to the public

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