I recently got '419ed'. The following is from the website 'Nigeria - The 419 coalition website' at http://home.rica.net/alphae/419coal/.
A Five Billion US$ (as of 1996, much more now) worldwide Scam which has run since the early 1980's under Successive Governments of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Scam is, according to published reports, the Third to Fifth largest industry in Nigeria. It is the 419 Coalition view that, in effect, the elites from which successive Governments of Nigeria have been drawn ARE the Scammers.
How it works
The Scam operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal by normal means. Common variations on the Scam include "overinvoiced" or "double invoiced" oil or other supply and service contracts where your Bad Guys want to get the overage out of Nigeria (Classic 419); crude oil and other commodity deals (a form of Goods and Services 419); a "bequest" left you in a will (Will Scam 419); "money cleaning" where your Bad Guy has a lot of currency that needs to be "chemically cleaned" before it can be used and he needs the cost of the chemicals (Black Currency 419) ; "spoof banks" where there is supposedly money in your name already on deposit; "paying" for a purchase with a check larger than the amount required and asking for change to be advanced (cashier's check and money order 419); fake lottery 419; chat room and romance 419 (usually coupled with one of the other forms of 419); employment 419 (including secret shopper 419) ; and ordering items and commodities off "trading" and "auction" sites on the web and then cheating the seller.
Here is the first email I received from the scammer in full:
Dear Jon Hoff, I am ........................., a legal practitioner in Malaysia with many years of practice.
I was an attorney to a deceased client of mine who died in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia of a heart related condition in 2001. My reason of sending you this email is to help secure the funds left behind by my client before it is confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this fund valued at $5.7million dollars was deposited.
Since you do have the same surname with my late client, I would want to present you as the legitimate beneficiary with all legal documents required to back the claim up.
The holding bank has issued me a notice to contact the next of kin, or the account will be confiscated, and so far, all my efforts to get hold of someone related to this man has proved abortive.This is my proposal; I am asking for your consent to present you to the bank as the next-of-kin and beneficiary of my late client, since you have the same last name, so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you. Then we can share the amount on a mutually agreed-upon percentage. I do have a good standing in Malaysia, it is my assurance that this transaction will be successful and that I will make sure that the transaction is done within the applicable laws to guarantee full legitimacyAll legal documents to back up your claim as my client's next-of-kin will be provided by me. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through.This will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law. However, if this business proposition offends your moral values, do accept my apology.
Please contact me at once to indicate your interest. Do understand that this transaction do require utmost confidence and you should keep this mail to yourself not withstanding if you are rejecting the transaction or accepting it.
Note that I reserve the right to reject your acceptance of this proposal if I have reasons to believe that you may not be honest or discreet as it concerns this proposal.
Further details will be giving as soon as your interest is indicated.
I had never even heard of a 419 before this email so I must admit I was intrigued yet exteremely dubious. I replyed, and this is the email that follwed:
In introduction, I am xxxxxxxx, Attorney at Law, member Malaysia law soceity and a licensed practising lawyer of many years standing.
In relation to my proposal mail to you, I had a client who was a mineral resources merchant in Malaysia here, born by two migrant workers in Malaysia which made him a Malaysian permanent resident holder. My client died in 2001 of Pulmonary infection. My late client lost his parents about 10 years ago. He was not married nor did he have kids. As the attorney to my late client I reliable knew that he died intestate because he did not have any Will before his demise.
I was not aware that my client had a deposit of $5.7Million dollars with a bank here in Malaysia till I was contacted by the bank that my late client's fund is about to be declared unservicable due to the reason that they have not been able to trace a next of kin or beneficiary to the deposited fund. This made me do a frantic search to trace a next of kin of my late client which was to no avail. In view of this I decided that instead of allowing the bank to declare the fund unserviceable, it is better that I look for someone to present as the next of kin to the fund and that was my main reason of contacting you.
As I told you in my proposal mail, I chose you because of your last name, which is the same as my late client's name, it is not that you are his relative; I only want to present you based on your last name.
There is no risk to this transaction as we will process all the required documents by law for a beneficiary claim. I have personally studied all applicable laws and found out that this is a transaction that we can do succesfully without it backfiring as far as we go with the plan I have set down and that we kept it secret.
Honesty is another issue that I wish to emphasize on because I do not know you and I do not have any option than to beleive that I am choosing the right person for this transaction, it was not only you that I traced with the same surname but since there is no criteria for choosing any of you, I made a blind choice and here we are.
In this transaction we will go step by step, first with the legal documents to back up the claim and secondly, the monetary documents for the transfer.
I will provide all the necessary legal documents that will back you up as the bona fide beneficiary of my late client, all I need from you is to cooperate with me and be honest in this arrangement and after a succesfull claim has been made, the bank will transfer the total fund into the account provided by you as the beneficiary account after which we will share the total fund as follows; (1) I will take 65% of the total amount. (2) You will take the remaining 35% of the fund. (3) In case there is any tax applicable when the fund is transfered to you, we will settle the tax from the total amount before splitting it according to the above sharing formula.
Do remember that you are not related to my late client, that I am the one that is bringing you into this transaction and the sharing percentage described above is not to be negotiated
If this is okay by you, I will send you a beneficiary affidavit form from the high court, which you will fill and resend to me, for me to swear under oath in high court of Malaysia that you are truly the bona fide beneficiary of my late client and from here we will commence. I will also process all legal documents required to claim the fund. It is my assurance that this transaction will be done within the spheres of acceptable laws and practices to guarantee its legitimacy and success.
Fill free to ask any question you want to ask for better understanding of the transaction.
If I can count on your honesty, cooperation and confidence, reply positively for me to start the paper work.
You do not have to come to Malaysia for the transaction but you may come if you do wish so.
You can always get me on my direct line XXXXXXXX, you can reach me at any time of the day.
Soon after this I googled the terms 'scam + beneficiary', and it didn't take long to find the 419 websites. So, I suppose the message is this - be warned.