Advance Fee Fraud
Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud aka 419
Advance Fee Fraud has been around, in various forms, for centuries. The basic technique is to convince a victim that they are going to receive a large reward in return for little or no effort on their part. Once the victim is 'hooked', the fraudster(s) will gradually reveal various fees that must be paid before the victim can access the fortune that they believe is waiting for them. These fees may be in the form of bribes to officials, duties, taxes, account fees, etc. As each charge is paid by the gullible victim, a new fee arises. Naturally, there is never any reward, and this process continues until the victim realises what is happening, or simply runs out of money.
In modern times this form of fraud has become a major 'industry' in Nigeria, so much so that it is now commonly referred to as "Nigerian Fraud", even when perpetrated by citizens of other countries. Another common name is "419 fraud" after Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal code, the section that specifically prohibits this type of crime. Whereas they originally sent handwritten letters with forged postage stamps, they now make use of the Internet to reach their victims.
This type of fraud is carried out in a number of different ways. One very common scheme is to convince a victim that the criminal has a very large amount of money trapped in a bank or security company, and for some reason cannot retrieve it. The victim is promised a large percentage of the fortune in return for essentially 'laundering' the money through their own bank account. This is an important feature of the scam: the victim is lured into agreeing to an unlawful enterprise, so that they will feel reluctant later to contact the authorities.
The criminals operating these schemes often try to encourage the victim to travel to meet them in a foreign country; sometimes Nigeria or a neighbouring country, but often European cities such as Amsterdam or Madrid. Once again, the intention in getting the victim away from their home is to make them feel vulnerable, and reluctant to contact the police. In rare instances, victims who meet with the criminals are actually threatened, kidapped, or even murdered.