Get inside the head of a Nigerian scammer
In the year of our Lord that is 2010, who the bleeding hell still falls for the emails of Nigerian scammers? Plenty of folk. But who are these mystery folk who try to trick the world out of several thousand quid a pop? Scam Detectives recently published a three part interview with a convicted advance fee fraud scammer. It's worth reading all three interviews with 'John', but here are some highlights:
I come from a poor family in Lagos, Nigeria. We did not have very much money and good jobs are hard to find. I was approached to work for a gang master when I was 15, because I had done well in school with my English, and was getting to be good with computers. The gang master was offering good money and I took the chance to help my family. There is a lot of corruption in Nigeria and the gangs pay [teachers] well to find people with good English skills to work the scams.
At the bottom [of the scamming gangs] 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.
Maybe 9 or 10 out of every thousand emails get a response. Then maybe 1 out of every 20 replies would lead to us getting money out of the victim in the end. expect to get from a victim? On average, I expected to get about $7,500 (£4,600) from a victim but the most I know about was $25,000 (£15,400).
I learned how to tell if they were serious or not. A serious victim would give me the information I asked for straight away so they could get the money. If they were playing a game then they would tell long stories about themselves and give lots of reasons why they could not send the money, or pretend that they had sent it.
I never met a victim, but I was involved in a couple of Wash-Wash scams. We would tell the victim that we had a trunk full of money, millions of dollars. One victim met some of my associates in a hotel in Amsterdam, where he was shown a box full of black paper. He was told that the money had been dyed black to get through customs, and that it could be cleaned with a special chemical that was very expensive.
My associates showed him how this worked with a couple of $100 bills from the top of the box, which they rinsed with some liquid to remove the black dye. Of course the rest of the bills were only black paper, but the victim saw real money. He handed over $27,000 (about £17,000) to buy the chemicals and was told to return to the hotel later that day to pick up the cash. Of course when he came back, there was nobody there. He couldn’t report it to anybody because if it had been real it would have been illegal, so he would have gotten himself into trouble