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Nigerian Fraud Emails

site map


4-1-9 ― Advance Fee Fraud ― Nigerian Scam




(category: # of emails)















$1,248,805,000 $292,576,000


$745,575,000 $261,080,000














$3,665,520,000 $976,371,000










  Like many people with publicly visible email addresses, I have gotten dozens and dozens of emails from Nigerians and members of other African nations inviting me to engage in a fantastic opportunity to help them smuggle / embezzle funds from their country.

  These emails have become so pervasive that even Googlemakes mentions them in their webmaster information section: "Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for "burn fat at night" diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators." ( source)

  These emails are from groups of con artists who have literally developed a national industry in Nigeria from engaging in a scheme called "advance fee fraud", or 4-1-9 (after the section in the Nigerian criminal code covering such activity). Originally begun in the late 70's as written letters (with rootsall the way back to the 1920s!), then later as faxes, now they are almost exclusively perpetrated via email. These letters typically fall into a few broad categories, as seen above. The actual scam scenarios are detailed below.


"....Nigeria is still ranked as one of the most corrupt countries on earth. U.S. citizens lose approximately $2 billion ($2,000 million) a year to Nigerian fraud -- be it credit card fraud, insurance fraud, or 419 scam letters, or counterfeiting," which totals about "two and one-half times the value of our total U.S. exports to Nigeria.""

Nov. '99, Robert L. Mallet, Deputy Secretary of Commerce ( source).

  Anyhow, just for laughs, I have begun tallying up how much money I "could have" gotten if I had followed through with the dozens of offers I receive monthly, as well as archiving the emails. I expect to exceed the GNP of Nigeria (ca. US $36,240,000,000) within two years or so, and probably exceed the total wealth of the world within 5 years or less.

  Above, on the right, I have linked to the various subcategories that each email falls into. I have not changed the actual email addresses used, in fact, I have made them active mailto:'s so that the Spam Bots will eventually render their accounts useless.

Feel free to send them any sort of "encouragement" that you feel fit.

More information can be obtained about this fraud here:

What is the Nigerian Scam, anyway?

  In a nutshell the scam works like this: you get an email from someone claiming to have access to a very large sum of money, and all they want in return is to use your bank account to transfer the funds. In exchange for your services they will give you some healthy percentage of the funds, usually 20% or more. Sometimes they request that you furnish them with blank company letterhead, and/or bank account information.

  First off, they often use your letterhead to make fake Visa sponsorship requests to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to get into the US, alternatively, they use the letterhead to send recommendations to other companies that will be enticed into the scam in the future. With your banking information they will draw up false financial instruments against your account and suck it dry.

  Second, as you fall into the scam, they explain that all they need is a few thousand dollars to get appropriate documents prepare, to create a will, a dummy corporation, licensing fees or what have you.

  Of course, after this initial fee is paid, yet another payment is required. Perhaps this time, a bank or government official has discovered the goings-on, and requires a bribe. Finally, they convince you that the only way to close the transaction is to go to Africa personally, after all, how can they trust you with all that money?

  Upon your arrival in Africa, to put it bluntly, you are screwed. They usually smuggle you into Nigeria without a visa (which is a serious crime there). Once you are in their hands, the moment you stop cooperating (i.e., paying them money), you will be threatened with arrest for illegally entering the country, your life will be threatened, most likely you will be severely beaten, and many times the victims are held for ransom. For this reason, it is common practice for the scammers to ask for the contact information of your spouse and other family members.

  According to the US Secret Service page about the Nigerian 419 scheme, an American involved in the scam was found dead in Lagos in 1995. According to this State Department report on Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud

(PDF file) , over 25 murders of Americans have been directly linked to the "Four One Nine" fraud. This scam is perpetuated worldwide now, mostly thanks to the internet. Many people from other nations have also been killed, and many, many more are still officially "missing"....


PLEASE REMEMBER: If it's too good to be true, it is!


PLEASE REMEMBER ALSO: Just because the emailer claims to be from Gambia or the Philippines, or some other place, that doesn't mean that your 'contact' is not a fraudster.

  First of all, these con men are inveterate liars, and secondly, how hard is it for anyone to claim in an email that they are in South Africa, Gambia, or even Mars?

  I have gotten a few emails from potential victims asking me if the con has "spread" to X or Y country. It doesn't matter if the contact doesn't seemto be from or in Nigeria. If you have read all the information I have presented here, and still don't recognize the patternof the con, well, you will learn the hard way.

  Let me just add on a personal note, recently, several of my website design clientswho are advertising houses for sale in Mexico, have been approached by Nigerian fraudsters who claim they are interested in buying their million dollar homes, and request a meeting in London, or some other far away place, until the purchaser's "visa is approved". Also, of course, they want "banking information" in order to make "financial arrangements".

  Luckily, all of my clients have been well-schooled in the dangers of this scam, and don't even bother responding to them.


DIRTY MONEY.... A large sum of money has been treated with a special chemical substance making it unusable, however, luckily, another special (very expensive and rare) chemical can be used to clean it.... if only you would front the money to buy the chemical, a healthy commission is waiting for you... but hurry, the chemists aren't willing to make the chemical very much longer!

DEAD FOREIGNER.... A large sum of money has been left in an bank account by a visiting businessman in Nigeria, who tragically died in a car/plane wreck. Unfortunately, the lawyer/bank employee can find no heirs.... would you like a share in these funds by posing as the sole heir of the deceased's estate? Of course, some lawyer fees and estate taxes will need to be paid for first... but hurry, in a short time, the government will seize the funds and put them into their war fund!

OVER BILLED GOVERNMENT CONTRACT.... The National Petroleum Company (or another government agency) of Nigeria has been purposely and successfully over billed a large sum of money on a legitimate contract. Now all these fellows need is a helpful foreign company to make them dummy invoices so that the funds will be transferred. Wouldn't a minor investment to get some paperwork pushed through the Nigerian government bureaucracy be worth the millions of dollars that your share will bring... but hurry, the contract needs to be billed within a short period of time, or the payment will lapse!

ILL GOTTEN GAINS.... A large sum of money was left to the wife/son/daughter of a Nigerian Royal/Dictator/Opposition Party Member who has since been ousted/assassinated. Sadly, there is no way to safely get these funds out of the country without the help of an open-minded foreigner. Some minor out-pocket expenses will need to be paid, initially, of course, but imagine the rewards of having your share of the money... but hurry, the new government in power is trying to recover these funds!

FORTUNATE INVESTOR .... A wealthy (usually ex-royal, ex-government official) investor wants to invest in a large sum of money in a foreign country, but can't attend to the business personally. Wouldn't you care to do them the favor of overseeing the investment? Of course, some sort of formalities will need to be attended to first, after all, how can you be trusted with their millions without first having you meet them in Nigeria.... but hurry, this is a limited time offer, and the new government in power is closing in!

BELOW MARKET COMMODITIES....A fortunate Nigerian has gotten a large quantity of crude oil/gold/diamonds but cannot move them from their storage facility without the help of a foreigner investor. If you would only pay some "earnest money/fees/bribes" he will let you keep a very generous percentage of the commodities' market value once they have been sold.... but hurry, time is of the essence, the people in charge of storing it are getting suspicious!

LETTER OF CREDIT.... A Nigerian business places a relatively small (legitimate) order from your company, perhaps $1000 worth of goods. Shortly thereafter, another order is placed, for a slightly larger amount, again, paid in full. Suddenly, an urgent order and much larger is placed, but this one needs to be air freighted on the double! Your Nigerian partners have just received a lucrative government contract, and if this shipment arrives on time, it means many more large orders in the near future. Don't worry about waiting until the bank draft clears... after all, the order is from our friends in Nigeria, and they have always made good their payments before...


I had never heard of this one, but the U.S. State Department's report on Nigerian Fraud(PDF file) has an actual reproduction (p.25) of one of these... Basically a wealthy executive gets a "pay or die" demand from a "professional assassinator organization"... hurry, if you don't pay, or if you tell anyone else, you will be killed by our observers! I'd laugh if it weren't so twisted...

THE HELPFUL POLICE OFFICIAL.... Another con that I learned from the U.S. State Department's report is the re-victimization scheme. If at any point, the victim decides to walk away from the deal, an individual posing as a government or police " task force official" will contact the victim and offer to "investigate" the scammers and attempt to recover the lost funds...of course, this sort of investigation requires the utmost privacy and discretion, and apparently that doesn't come cheap in Nigeria... but hurry, you have to start this investigation as soon as possible, or else "they" will get away! Ironically, more often than not, the same group of scammers is responsible for the "re-vic" con, and it has also been documented that con men often resell the "walk-aways" to other groups of con artists that specialize in the re-vic scam.

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"The Spanish Prisoner Con"

  In the 1920's (though research has revealed evidence leads to examples of this con as early as 1588) a type of advance fee fraud flourished that became known as "The Spanish Prisoner" con.


In the Spanish Prisoner con, businessmen were contacted by someone trying to smuggle the child of a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain. But of course the wealthy family would richly reward anyone who helped secure the release of the boy. Those who were suckered into this paid for one failed rescue attempt after another, with the fictitious prisoner continuing to languish in his non-existent dungeon, always just one more bribe, one more scheme, one more try, away from being released.

I hope this sounds familiar!

The "Spanish Prisoner" con is so clichéd it was made into a pretty good moviewritten by David Mamet.

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  • The Art of the Steal: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America's #1 Crime, Frank W. Abagnale

  • Catch Me If You Can: The Amazing True Story of the Most Extraordinary Liar in the History of Fun and Profit, Frank W. Abagnale

    (now a major motion pictureavailable on DVD)

  • Nigerian Scams Revisited, Gary Baines

    (Nov. 2002 release date...)

  • The Nigerian Scam Masters: An Expose of a Modern International Gang ...(may be out of print)

  • Transnational Criminal Organizations, Cybercrime, and Money Laundering: A Handbook for Law Enforcement Officers, Auditors and Financial Investigators

  • Fraud 101: Techniques and Strategies for Detection

  • The Fraud Identification Handbook

  • Rip-Offs, Cons and Swindles: Money for Nothing

  • Traveler Beware! An Undercover Cop's Guide to Avoiding: Pickpockets, Luggage Theft, and Travel Scams

  Author:Patrick Deese


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