Interview with a Nigerian 419 scammer

Bruce Schneier, in his blog Schneier on Security http://www.schneier.com/ drew attention to this great interview with an ex-Nigerian-419 scammer on the Scam-Detective site.

It’s a fairly long piece and gives a pretty good view of the Nigerian scam industry run by organized crime, how it sucks in young people who have good computer and English skills and pays them a huge amount of money ($75,000 per year in this case) to scam victims they view as white, greedy and rich.

I’ll just quote one section and the conclusion of the three-part interview:

Scam-Detective: How did you find victims for your scams?

John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the “foot soldiers”, kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.

. . .

Scam-Detective: Can you give our readers any tips about how they can avoid getting scammed?


John: The biggest thing I can say is to delete the emails and never to reply. Once you reply your email address will be put on a list and sold to other gangs, even if you never reply again. It just tells them that the address is real and that somebody reads email going to that address. If they can’t get you with 419 (advance fee fraud) they will try phishing or viruses to get your banking details and take your money that way.

I used lots of different stories to get people to send money. I used the dying widow story a lot, saying that I was an old lady dying of cancer and had fallen out with my children. I wanted to give my money to charity and didn’t trust them to carry out my wishes, so was looking for someone outside of the country to make sure it went to the right place. So whatever the story is, make sure you delete the email, because you can be sure it is a scam.

Another thing is not to put email addresses anywhere on the internet. If it is on a guestbook or message board, or on a website anywhere then the foot soldiers will find it and put it on their list. 

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