Software

Nigerian 419 scammers: What you didn't know

Most of us have been solicited by 419 scammers from Nigeria, so we understand how the swindle works. I've wondered about the people behind the con, but never found much written about them. That is until now.

Karin Brulliard, a Washington Post Staff Writer released a fascinating article, providing an in-depth view of what it is like to be a cyber-con artist or yahoo-yahoo boy as they are known in Nigeria.

419 swindling is so much a part of the Nigerian culture, there are songs written about it. One song "Yahoozee" became especially popular when former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell danced with the Yahoozee Boys in London.

It's big business

Brulliard featured Felix and Banjo, two colorful yet quiet yahoo-yahoo boys in her article:

"In the lingo of swindlers, Felix said he went "on the street." He got "tools": formats, or "FMs," for letters; "mailers," or accounts that send e-mails in bulk; and huge lists of e-mail addresses, bought online. In good months, he said, he has made $30,000, which he blew on clothes, hotel rooms and Dom Perignon at "VVIP" clubs."

Banjo went on to describe their favorite fraud:

"The work-from-home scam, which authorities warn is flourishing as the world sheds jobs. In U.S. newspapers and on the Web, he places ads for "pickup agents" or "correspondents." They print out counterfeit corporate checks -- Honeywell is one company whose checks Banjo said he faked -- at $10 apiece and mail them to other unsuspecting folks. Those victims then cash the checks and wire the funds to the scammer's accomplice in Britain or South Africa -- places less likely to elicit the sender's suspicion. After taking a cut, that person wires the rest to Banjo. Days later, when the bank deems the check phony, the casher must pay. In good months, Banjo said, he has made $60,000." Somewhat ironic

Brulliard's writing captivated me, I started envisioning these two men being casted in a Yahoo-Yahoo version of "The Sting", and then there was mention of a special tool:

"But in these tough times, the scammers said, they are relying more on a crucial tool: voodoo. At times, Banjo said, he has traveled six hours to the forest, where a magician sells scam-boosters. A $300 powder supposedly helps scammers "speak with authority" when demanding payment. A powder, rubbed on the face, reportedly makes victims viewing the scammer through webcams powerless to say no."

That was a twist I didn't expect.

Final thoughts

Edited 11 Aug 2009: My intent was not to cast a negative shadow on any nationality. If you look at statistics, the United States (my home country) ranks number one in electronic swindling. I was only trying to pass on information about the people behind the 419 e-mails from Nigeria.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

15 comments
Shellbot
Shellbot

They are paying 300 bucks for a magic powder to boost thier scams?? ROFL :D

kevaburg
kevaburg

You rightly pointed out that the police and other law-enforcement agencies (loosely termed in so far as the Internet is concerned) don't seem to be too bothered about helping or catching the people responsible for these ridiculous scams. It is far too easy to buy a domain-name, set up a "busines" or "charity" and appear ligitimate and then send the emails out. And then wait. There needs to be more awareness of the problem and more cooperation between countries if these things are going to be stopped (or at least kept under control). How about adverts on TV or poster campaigns warning people of the dangers. Isn't the one thing we teach in IT the fact that that most problems can be avoided with the appropriate training?

belbolbuk
belbolbuk

I quite agree with you. The government through some agencies such as EFCC, ICPC, CBN, etc are making efforts to stem the tide but more can still be done. Cooperation between countries is a very good suggestion.

JCitizen
JCitizen

now public knowledge and so obsolete as to render it non sequiter.

admin
admin

I totally agree that noone ought to fall for these rediculus scams specifically according to an ol' saying: if it sounds to good to be true, it it normally isn't." Still there are a lot of people out there who are very much amatuers on the computer and probably even more on economy and law. Beeing desperate, jobless and maybe even not too bright, it's easy ta grasp for a chance. Beeing Beeing an easy catch is not illegal, but taking advantage of such a person is.

Shellbot
Shellbot

yer hardcore!!! :D ROFL! OK, you've got me there...

wolfshades
wolfshades

You're less paranoid than me. I absolutely KNOW I'm not trustworthy. Every time I pull my wallet out of my back pocket, I'm certain that I'm molesting myself. "BAD TOUCH!"

stan
stan

I will stick with fools, albeit greedy fools. Have you seriously read these things? How anyone could fall for them is totally beyond me.

Shellbot
Shellbot

live in paranoid state. I can count on one hand the number of people I trust.. I'm even suspicious of myself some days... can I trust myself?? I just don't know...

zd
zd

The big problem is that humanity is at risk. Don't be too snug at blaming the victims here. I could likely fool you into something using clever social engineering... and.. if I can't... you live in paranoid state.... Humanity is at risk.

belbolbuk
belbolbuk

I don't think so. Some may be sincerely fooled but for some it may just be greed