More than four years ago, we wrote an article about the Nigerian 419 scam and what the scammers think of their victims, in which we concluded that “just in case you weren’t sure about the seriousness of 419 scams …just in case you think that it’s just a few people, and they are going to go away, think again. These scammers are here to stay, they are serious, and their target is…you.” Well, it sure hasn’t gotten any better since then. And here to prove it, from his own lips, a former Nigerian 419 scammer tells all.
This unusual interview was published on the new Scam Detectives website, a site dedicated to outing scams and scammers and, as they tell it, to “reduce the number of people taken in by online scams every year and stop YOU from losing your hard earned money.” Scam Detectives is run by ClearAsCrystal, a web design firm based in Wales.
Somehow, Scam Detectives scored an interview with a reformed 419 scammer – at least they claim to have have interviewed someone who claims to have been a 419er, until he was arrested while in Nigeria, and served two years in prison. Now the reformed scammer, known as “John” for the interview, having done his time, is in college, and currently in the UK under a student exchange program.
The Scam Detective who hosted the interview explains in a disclaimer that ‘John’ contacted them and volunteered to be interviewed, anonymously, and as such the Scam Detectives had no real way to confirm that ‘John” was who he purported to be, or had done what he claims to have done.
But here’s the thing – whether John really was a 419 scammer or not, he clearly has a deep working knowledge of how it all works, and so even if he isn’t a genuine 419 scammer, he could be, and he explains a 419 operation so well that it is, by far, the clearest and most accurate explanation of a 419 scam that we’ve seen in a long time.
For example, John describes the 419 gangs, explaining that “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.”
In another part of the interview, John explains that “I had lots of different documents that I would use to convince the victim that I was genuine, including photographs of an official looking man in an office, fake ID and storage manifests, bank statements showing the money, whatever would best convince the victim that I, and the money, was real.”
It is a fascinating read, and kudos to Scam Detectives for getting the word out!
You can read Scam Detectives’ Interview with a Scammer here.