419 (Nigerian) Scams - A Different Perspective

I got talking today about 419 scams, commonly called Nigerian scams (because of where most of them seem to relate to and originate from) and realized something that I hadn't noticed before (odd how sometimes you don't look at things from both sides than all of a sudden - BAM!).

Basically, we think of the people caught out by these schemes as victims but in fact that's only part of the story.  Yes, victims that fall for these scams have lost money because of it and for many it's money that they can't afford to lose, but the flipside of this is that at least some of these scams that people are being drawn into are usually quite clearly labeled as dodgy, illegal activity. Moving money from one country to another without the government knowing implies that the transaction is gray territory at best, probably dubious, maybe even illegal.  Put on one side the fact that it's a scam and that no money actually exists, the sender of the email is trying to get the recipient involved in illegal activity - money needs to be moved from one country to another under some guise, people will need bribing and secrecy is required.  It sound dodgy and illegal.  Doing an illegal favor for someone is still illegal.  To say the least it's a questionable deal.  Same goes for the "money due for next of kin" scams - do the people who respond really think that they have (or at least had) a long lost relative in some far-flung corner of the globe?  Honestly?  Or are they just taking advantage of an email that "happened" to come their way?

I can imagine a gang of bank robbers sending emails out.  They have a lucrative job lined up but no money for a getaway car, driver and some shooters so could I please help them?  Or maybe they want a hand fencing stuff or laundering the cash.  I don't mean to sound unkind here and I don't like the idea of someone being scammed or taken for a ride, but if I got involved with a gang like this, would I be at all surprised that they turned around and ripped me off?  No, it's what crooks and criminals do - they take advantage of people.  I really don't think that the police would have much sympathy for me either and I doubt that I'd be seen as a victim!

So, not only are these scams a case of "if it seems too good to be true then it is" but they also prove the point that "crime doesn't pay"!

Note - There term 419 comes from the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes.

More information on these kinds of scams can be found at:

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
Last updated: March 14th 2005
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