Nigerian, or "419", scams are one of the most common types of fraudulent email currently hitting inboxes. Nigerian scam messages can also arrive via fax or letter. The messages claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money, usually many millions of dollars. The money that the message claims does not exist. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to a Nigerian scam message will eventually be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed. The scammers use a variety of stories to explain why they need your help to access the funds. For example they may claim that political climate or legal issues preclude them from accessing funds in a foreign bank account. They may also claim that your last name is the same as that of the deceased person who owned the account and suggest that you act as the Next of Kin of this person in order to gain access to the funds or that a rich businessman, who has a terminal illness, needs your help to distribute his wealth to charity.
The messages offer to let you keep a significant percentage of the funds in question in exchange for your assistance. The percentage is the bait that the scammers use to entice potential victims deeper into the scam. Once a recipient has a fed into the bait and initiated a dialogue with the scammers, he or she will soon receive requests for "fees" that the scammer claims are necessary for processing costs, tax and legal fees, or bribes to local officials. The scammers will warn the victim that these advance fees need to be paid before the funds can be procured. The funds actually do not exist but are used to trick recipients into parting with their
money in the form of these advance fees. The requests for fees will continue until the victim is being tricked and stops sending money. In some scams, scammers gain enough information to access the victim’s bank account directly or steal the victim’s identity.