419 Fraud by Gullible/Greedy Folks Still Victimizing Thousands

Do you still remember getting email about a friend who got stranded somewhere in a foreign land and is out of cash? In desperation, he contacts you begging for money so that he can go home. How about getting a letter from someone in Africa who is about to inherit a large amount of money but has to get some “start-up” funding so that he can transfer the funds from one bank to another? Because of the large sum involved, he is willing to repay the money you loan him many times over. E-mails like this have received much attention from the internet thus most of them have been relegated to the spam section Yet, despite it being clearly spam, we still receive it today. The reason for its long life is that e-mail practically costs nothing to send. With the help of email address harvesting software, a one-man operation can send one scam letter to millions of recipients. Assuming 1 percent of the recipients are gullible, it amounts to 1000 people who are greedy enough to send 100 dollars to the scammer. Not bad money for practically nothing.

Much of these well publicized e-mail scams originate in Nigeria and became popularly known as the 419 fraud. The number 419 stands for an article in Nigerian penal law that deals with fraud. The 419 fraud is a scheme used by many tricksters worldwide and is collectively known as an advanced fee fraud. Reasons such as funds left behind by a collapsed dictatorship, a discovered stash of gold, even as far as a doctor who has information regarding a wealthy but terminally ill patient, have all been cited for these types of scams. What a 419 scam basically does is that it asks for money so that the funds can be transferred into an accessible account. Once someone bites the bait, successive emails follow. Typically, the next email will inform the recipient that more money is required to bribe a corrupt banker, or that he has to create a new bank account because it is required by banking laws. What happens ultimately is that the transfer of funds never takes place because it never existed.

In recent news, it has been reported that a result of analysis of spam mail, conducted by Symantec in February, shows that this old-style scam is resurgent. What was the most frequent reason for soliciting money through email? The money will be used for helping Haiti’s earthquake victims. Because of the huge public sympathy for the victims, most people who are normally cautious with these types of email become temporarily susceptible. The email sounds very convincing and even hijacks the names of international relief agencies like the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and UNICEF.

While spam will never go away, another medium for scamming the unwary is being used by more fraudsters. Now, social networking sites are where more than 90 percent of phishing scams take place. These are sites that lure adults, mostly males, for free porn. Because scams from social networking sites are relatively new, it occupies the forefront of research of most computer security firms relegating spam into the background. Nevertheless, spam will always be there and as long as there are gullible/greedy people out there, scammers will continue spewing out millions of fake emails daily.

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