419 Email Scams
A 419 fraud scam works in innumerable ways with very similar stories to defraud generous and sometimes greedy consumers. We are going to explore the most common methods used and some ways you can fight back. They are also called Nigerian scams, and there are a few variations to them.
1. The Orphaned 'Princess'
So the story goes, there is a King, an Ambassador or some other person of high official capacity in a country few have heard of who has been murdered along with his wife. Only this poor soul of a child, now full grown remains. As sole heir to her father's fortune of several millions she searches for the right person (usually whoever it is that answers the email she sends) to rescue her from her fate. She is in a refugee camp treated as a prisoner and only a faithful, lonely American (or a person from whichever nation she was emailing) can help.
She wishes to transfer those millions into your bank account and will give you from 10% up to 50% if you will surely forward enough money for her to get out of the camp. Here, the variations split into two, either she is going to electronically transfer these funds into your account, or she will send a cashiers' check for you to deposit and send the other percentage to her so she can get out of the camp.
If you do share your account information with her, your account will be drained before the end of business day. If you take the cashiers' check to deposit, it takes a total of 3 or 4 days to learn that it's a fake and if you have sent her a percentage before the cashier check cashes, you are out that amount of money. She can be in Senegal, Nigeria, China, or the Philippines.
2. The Lonely Foreign Fiance –
This is almost the same scam except that she may or may not be from a wealthy family whose father was killed. She is just looking for a ticket to a better country and she will fall in love with and marry whoever answers the email. Then you get hit up with requests for passport fees, travel fees, a relative who is sick or injured. They troll singles dating sites, personal classifieds and business classifieds. Your ad may be for business services, and yet from that ad, they are able to determine that you are their soul-mate and you are destined to fall in love and marry. She will send pictures of a very young and beautiful woman, which may or may not be her in reality. Many of these are from Africa or the Philippines and a number of them are Russian or Ukrainian women looking for American men to marry. Once you have sent well into the thousands of dollars to get your exotic bride, you never hear from her again.
3. Foreign Lottery Winner –
You get an email that you have won a lottery in a country you've never been in, much less bought a lottery ticket in. In order to claim it, you will need to pay the 'tax' on the foreign winnings. If you send a check, kiss it goodbye. If they request bank information to deposit the winnings into, kiss your balance goodbye quickly.
Regardless of which scam you are seeing, either they want your payment information or they are sending you a worthless check you have to cash quickly to send them the tax, or whatever they request. The bank then charges you the amount of money you transferred to them and you are stuck with less in your account than you had before.
What to Do About It
Any email promoting money, love, or something good to you from another country is a scam. That is rule one. Any email requesting bank information, paypal information, or any other personal information is a scam. No bank will ever request this from you through email, they already know your information.
If you have received one of these emails forward it to email@example.com (and this is important) forward it as an inline text, not as an attachment. They use the source code to track down the source of these emails and can send this to the appropriate jurisdictions in the appropriate areas.
Play with them a Bit.
I like to play with these people. I tell them a heart wrenching story about my wife passing away and my children very disturbed and sad. (None of which is true) And they write back with fervor! Thinking to themselves that they have a hurting soul who will only be too glad to send money for companionship, or take them up collecting from the "orphan's" bank account.
See what information you can gather by sending a reply, "Yes Dear, I've been looking for Love too" or, "I Won! Wow I sure could use the money." Etc. See if they send a phone number or address to send money to so that you can forward that information too. The authorities will use this information to take the appropriate actions. The scam artists can then no longer use that mailbox or that email account and have to make changes. Forward each of their replies to the 419 scam site and do your part to shut down these rip off artists! You could be responsible for sending them to prison.
Things to Look For.
Common phrases used include:
"I am concerned for your health, there."
Remain with my lots of love and hug of kiss
Good Morning Darling. How are you doing today, I know that you are in good condition of health.
Often there will be misspellings and terrible English grammar, not unexpected in emails from someone who first language is not English. There will be pressure, a deadline that needs to be met that requires immediate action.
There are those who are out there who only way to make a living is to scam money from you. And if they will lie, cheat and steal from a widower with children and a sob story, they will lie, cheat and steal from you, too. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it IS.