Nigerian, or "419", scams are one of the most familiar types of fraudulent email currently hitting inboxes. Nigerian scam messages can also land via fax or letter. The messages usually claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money, typically many millions of dollars. In fact, this money does not exist. The messages are an opening strategy designed to draw latent victims deeper into the scam. Those who begin a dialogue with the scammers by replying to a Nigerian scam message will finally be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed. They may also become the victims of identity theft.
The so-called "Nigerian scam" is one of the longest running scam. In fact, it predates the Internet and email. The scams are also known as "419 scams" after the appropriate part of the Nigerian criminal code. The scammers still use surface mail and faxes as well as email. There are a great many versions of this scam. Even though many originate out of Nigeria, hence the general term "Nigerian scam", it is certainly not only Nigerian based criminals that send them. In spite of the long life of this type of scam and the large amounts of publicity that it has received, many people around the world are still being conned out of substantial sums of money.
Fundamentally, the scam works like this. You receive an unwanted message that pretend to be as some manner of business proposal, request for assistance, notice of a potential inheritance, or opportunity to help an aid. Actually, there is a seemingly endless array of cover stories that the scammers use in order to draw potential victims into the con. In spite of this diversity, virtually all of the scam messages share a common theme. The messages all claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money, typically many millions of dollars. The scammers use a variety of stories to explain why they need your help to access the funds.