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The latest of the Nigerian scams is detailed here. As you can see, the technique has evolved from the simple mails we used to receive a couple of years back. New Nigerian geeks are coming up with brand new ways of robbing us of our hard earned money. No wonder then that scamming is one of the largest industries in Nigeria today! Some of the documented ways of being robbed are illustrated here (click the link to go to the page that explains the method):
You've won a lottery! - What you get in your email is a poor photoshop job of your name superimposed on a lottery ticket. Common sense should tell us that a person's chances of winning a lottery are ZERO if no ticket is bought! Why would someone buy a ticket in your name in the first place?
Need to move money from my country - You get a usual looking email from some stranger (first red flag) asking your help to move lots of money (usually in the hundreds of millions) from their country. What you get is a cut from the transaction, anywhere between 15 and 40 percent. Again, common sense should tell us that a crook (yes, they aren't like you and me) wouldn't solicit help from a decent person to move that huge an amount of cash..
The classic eBay scam - You put up your old, $100 phone on eBay hoping to sell it for something like 40 - 50 bucks and the winning bid surprises you! Some bloke in Nigeria is willing to pay you 300 bucks for your old phone! Well, maybe they don't have such advanced equipment in Nigeria and you decide to sell it to the bidder. The money will never reach you and you'll lose the merchandise as well. They bait you into mailing the item by promising a 'held payment' cheque deposited in your name with some (usually well known) postal department. Again, common sense should tell you never to ship out an item without first receiving payment for it. Also, check the buyer's reputation before entering into a transaction. Also, if you think an email is sent to you from eBay asking you to trust the buyer, check that the email is valid. An example - eBayCustomerService@polar.com is an not a mail from eBay at all while firstname.lastname@example.org is a valid email. Check for the domain name (bold).
The great 419er - The name comes from section 419 in the Nigerian criminal law which deals with cheating. The scamster will usually ask for a small amount (to the tune of a couple of hundred thousands) so that they are able to free amounts in millions. Of course, they'd be more than willing to share between ten to thirty percent of the amount with you for your help. Problem is, the hundred thousand you wire to them will never be heard of again. If you try to pursue your money and reach Nigeria searching for it, you risk losing more money - and worse, your life!
Someone's died, no will, please help us recover the money - Same as the 419er mentioned above.
The Dating scam - This one might sometimes pay you a pittance first before you're lured into parting with lots more. Spammers, usually masquerading as foreigners working in Nigeria, try to establish a correspondence with you. Once the initial hesitation of 'talking to strangers' is over, they pretend to fall madly in love with you and even send you some (cheap) presents. Eventually they will ask for your help in moving large amounts of money out of the country. After that, it's basically just like the 'Need to move money from my country' scam illustrated above.
So what does an average person like you and me do when contacted by such scammers? Do not respond! That's the best defense we have against people who try to rob us of our hard earned money. If the scammers do not get people to respond to their bait, maybe it'll persuade them to actually look for meaningful work. Another thing you can do is try your hands at scambaiting. It's kind of like hunting and presents some inherent risks - you may burn your hands doing it, but the rewards are gratifying too. You pretend that you're falling for the bait and get the scammer to spend some of his (hard earned) money on you. A better idea would be to let an expert do the baiting and read about it on their website. Report a scam to 419eater.It's a source of some entertainment while also a detriment to the scammers. With enough scambaiters around, some day we will hopefully see the end of these fraudsters.