What Is 419 Fraud?
Are you wondering, "What is 419 fraud?" The short answer is "advance-fee fraud." The reason the famed scam has been assigned (seemingly) such a random number is that 419 is the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud. The history of this famed fraud goes back many years, so let's take a closer look at its origins.
In the early 1980s the Nigerian economy was on a decline. Its oil-based sector was failing, and this attracted much global media attention. Several unemployed college students sought to exploit this by sending out fraudulent letters, emails and other forms of communication designed to imitate Nigerian oil industry representatives. They soon garnered in thousands to millions simply by conning people into shady international business dealings. Because of its criminal nature, it was also hard to locate, sue or legally force the con-artist to give the money back (especially when you agreed to purchase illegal items in the first place) from this illicit fraud.
The 419 fraud begins whenever someone impersonates a celebrity, political figure or businessperson of prominence. From there, the con artist begins to build confidence with the victim, usually via fraudulent checks, anonymous communication and untraceable wire transfers. By employing all of these techniques, the 419 fraud is continued until the victim either runs out of funds or demands some return on investment. It is at this point that the fraud reveals itself and the con-artist informs the victim that they are not going to pay him anything back.
There are alternative ways to end the 419 fraud, some worse than others. Many con-artists instead choose to kidnap their victims for ransom, kill them for psychopathic pleasure or steal their identities. Regardless, the 419 fraud is hugely successful in general, as the Secret Service Financial Crimes Division reported that up to $100 million was lost from these scams in 1997 alone (among those reported).
As you can tell, the frauds perpetrated through 419 scams are rampant in our age of modern telecommunications. Victims often need psychological rehabilitation afterwards, some comparing the experience to that of being raped. Other victims are not so calm, choosing instead to kill themselves, turn to a life of crime to make up for losses or killing others in a violent frenzy. Choose wisely, and never give your identity to someone who may be perpetrating an online fraud.