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Loyola University Chicago

University Information Security Office

Money Scams

What is a Nigeria 419 scam?
A Nigeria 419 scam is a type of scam known as an advance fee fraud. It is associated with Nigeria because many of these scams originate there, and the government has been lax in enforcing section 419 of their penal code, which covers these crimes.

The general format of a Nigeria 419 scam is as follows:
1.You will receive an email (or instant message or fax) from someone you've never met asking for assistance in moving a large amount of money from one country (usually an African country) to another.

  1. The sender will promise you a substantial cut of the money to assist in moving the money.
  2. The sender will make promises about how quickly the money will be moved, if you will provide them with money to cover a few expenses, or the routing information to your bank account.
    The money requested is the "advance fee" portion of the advance fee fraud.
  3. If you send money, the sender will keep coming up with excuses as to why they have not completed the transaction. At this point, the sender is simply trying to defraud you of as much money as possible. It is almost impossible to recover any money sent over.
  4. In some variations of the scheme, the sender will attempt to get you to enter Nigeria to finish the transaction, which is really just an attempt to get you into Nigeria and possibly into harm's way as you are physically threatened unless you provide additional funds.

Additional information can be found on the Secret Service's Advance Fee Fraud Advisory [link outside of LUC].

What should I do if I receive a Nigeria 419 scam?

There are several choices available to you, listed below in order of simplicity:

  1. Delete the message.
  2. Mark the sender as a spam sender.
  3. Forward the message to the abuse department of the sending domain. For example, if you received an email from Nigeria419Scammer@yahoo.com, forward the message to abuse@yahoo.com. All domains should have an abuse account set up to receive abuse complaints.

I received a similar request, but it is from someone in a country other than Nigeria. What should I do?
As more and more people become aware of Nigeria 419 scams, the scammers pretend that they are from other countries, typically in Africa or the Middle East. Because they primarily communicate via email and receive funds via money orders, they can often easily pretend to be in a country other than the one they are actually in. Most Nigeria 419 scams originate from within Nigeria because of the government's poor enforcement efforts. However, similar scams can operate out of any country. As always, be extremely cautious when you encounter an opportunity that sounds too good to be true. In almost all cases, they are.


Other Money Scams

In addition to the Nigeria 419 scam, there are a number of other scams that are very common on the Internet. This is in no way intended to be a complete list of the scams, but to serve as a reminder that many people online are more than willing to defraud you.

One of my friends or acquaintances who claims to be out of the country lost their passport, money, or credit cards or had them stolen, and asked I send them money. What should I do?
If you are worried about a friend being stranded outside of the country, you should try contacting them by phone rather than email. Don't send money unless you speak directly by phone to your friend to find out if they really need money. Otherwise, what happened is that your friend's email address list has been hijacked and emails the whole address list with a 'stranded traveler' appeal letter.

Someone wants me to receive packages and then forward them out of the country. What should I do?
If someone has offered to pay you for receiving packages and sending them out of the country, more likely than not they are asking you to commit a crime. Typically, the packages in question were purchased via a stolen credit card. By shipping the packages outside of the country, you may be criminally responsible for receiving stolen goods. If a deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Someone wants to buy something from me via money order or cashier's check. They're going to send me a money order for more than I requested, and I'm supposed to send them back the difference. What should I do?
You should not do business with them. More likely than not, the money order or cashier's check is fake. Your bank may accept the deposit.   However, this does not mean that the check is not a fake. Banks have a limited amount of time to validate that a check is legitimate (between 1-12 days, depending on the circumstances). So it is possible that the bank will be required to post the money to your account before the check has actually cleared. It will then appear to you that the check has cleared, even when it has not. You would then send the item and the remainder of the money to the buyer, only to find out later that the bank did not honor the check. If someone insists of using money orders or cashier's checks to transact business with you, insist that the amount be exactly equal to the amount you requested, to limit your liability.

Someone wants to buy something from me, and wants to use an escrow service. What should I do?
You should independently validate the escrow service that they want to use. Instead of clicking on the link that they send over, search for the escrow service in google. Follow the link in google, don't follow the link they sent you (as you learned in the
be careful what you click on page). A large number of scammers will set up fake escrow sites that look like legitimate sites. If you use a fake escrow site, you could wind up losing your money, what you were selling, or both.

Someone says I won a lottery, and I just have to send them some money to cover the fees. What should I do?
You shouldn't trust them. This is a variation on the Nigeria 419 scam. The sender will claim that if you send them money to cover various fees, taxes, etc, then they will send you your lottery winnings. This is just an attempt to blind you with greed, as there are no lottery winnings and you will lose any money that you send to them.


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