The IT Law Wiki


The Nigerian 4-1-9 fraud (also called the 419 scam or Nigerian scam) is an advance fee fraud scam where criminals deceive victims into paying a fee by persuading them that they will receive a very large benefit in return.


Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, the scheme combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee fraud scheme.

Nigerian fraud: i.e., schemes, typically conducted by loosely-knit criminal networks with Nigerian affiliations, that involve various types of fraudulent solicitations by mail, fax, telephone, and email. These solicitations include, for example, offers of bogus opportunities to assist African residents in laundering illegal proceeds or transferring other funds out of Africa. There is a consensus among North American, European, and Nigerian law enforcement experts on Nigerian fraud schemes that these schemes, regardless of the type of fraud scheme or location of their principal operations, are conducted by loose-knit criminal networks dominated by individuals with Nigerian nationality or Nigerian tribal or family relationships, though lower-level participants in the scheme may include individuals with other West African nationalities as well as non-African nationalities.[1]

How it works

A letter, email, or fax is received by the potential victim from individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars, soliciting for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are out of the country. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a facsimile number provided in the letter. They may even encourage you to travel to the country in question, or a neighboring country, to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have even produced trunks of dyed or stamped money to try to verify their claims.

The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.

Through the Internet, businesses and individuals around the world have been, and continue to be, targeted by perpetrators of this scam.

Inevitably, emergencies come up, requiring more money and delaying the "transfer" of funds to the victim's account. In the end, there aren't any profits, and the scam artist vanishes with the money. The harm sometimes can be felt even beyond the victim's pocketbook: according to State Department reports, people who have responded to "pay in advance" solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.