Nigerian Official Blames The Victims Of Nigerian 419 Advance Fee Scams

from the blame-the-victim dept

It still amazes us that people still fall for so-called Nigerian advance-fee 419 scam emails. I’d actually noticed that I’d stopped getting such emails offering me millions for helping smuggle gold out of the country, but in the last week there’s been a new bunch of them — and apparently people still fall for them. According to a Nigerian diplomat in Australia, he’s just as amazed, and thus thinks the victims are equally to blame and deserve jailtime. He claims that the government “frowns” on these scams, and spends plenty of time trying to track down the scammers — but we’ve been reporting on Nigerian gov’t claims for years and years and they never seem to get very far in stopping the scammers. But, still, he claims that the victims are equally at fault.

While it’s true that most of these scams prey on people’s greed (they’re basically roping people into “stealing” money), it’s a bit extreme to claim they should be thrown in jail for being conned. If you read a book like Drake’s Fortune, which describes a similar scam nearly a century ago that was incredibly effective, you realize how easily people are fooled into these things. And we’ve even seen cases where victims still believe the scammers after they’ve lost everything and the whole scam has been explained to them. That’s how thoroughly convincing these scams can be.

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Comments on “Nigerian Official Blames The Victims Of Nigerian 419 Advance Fee Scams”

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Spectere (profile) says:

The victims deserve jail time?

I’m certainly not saying that people who fall for 419 schemes really deserve much sympathy. After all, it’s a scam whose success is driven by playing on the greed of others. And, really, given how much publicity these scams (mostly due to the proliferation of das Interwebs and the ease of accessing information about things like this) have gotten there’s absolutely no excuse to fall for them. However, saying that they deserve jail time is a bit much. I’d say the scammer, in this case, is doing a fine job punishing his/her victims.

I think the diplomat should have considered his words a bit more carefully because, really, they’re way out of line. You just don’t say things like that when you’re representing your country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The victims deserve jail time?

You do if that is truly how your country wants to be represented. Look at New Orleans during the whole Katrina incident. Mayor Nagan and his winner of a police cheif were not exactly acting in the best interests of their city, but no-one did anything to stop them from making a mockery of their city and the majority of the population.

As far as blaming the victims, what about elderly folks that get caught up in this kind of thing? They don’t always know better. They think they are going to get compensated for helping someone, and all they have to do is forward a little money on the front end (as far as they know anyway). Now, I know a lot of people in churches are taught to believe in seed faith, and this plays on that faith. Do these people all deserve to go to jail? Maybe in exchange for the money, the Nigerians need to sit through about 10 years of southern baptist christian culture. They will want to kill themselves. Eureka, thats how we fix it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been known to frequent a dating site or two in my lifetime. The first time I was contacted by this amazingly HOT @ss girl (which should have set the internal alarms off right there, hehehe) and we talked. After the second e-mail she started telling me she loved me. Well this DID set off my alarms, but I wanted to see where it went. Would you f_cking believe that she started telling me she couldn’t get out of Nigeria (which, once I read I knew, much to my chagrin, that I had been conned by some rib-showing spear throwing monkey eating African dude across the world) because she got paid in money orders so could I loan her $700. I said I didn’t have the money and never heard from her again.

If you read the story carefully, you’ll notice that there should have been alarm bells going off at three different sections. Two of them I caught, but that first one got by me.

Moral of the story, don’t try to date people who are prettier than you.

John (profile) says:

E-mail and critical thinking

I think e-mail tends to turns off people’s ability to think critically. How else can you explain why people will blindly forward e-mails about “missing children” (some of whom were found 10 years ago) and the latest “virus report” (issued by AOL and CNN).

Let’s think about this: if someone on the street came up to you and said, “Hey lucky recipient, I’ll give you $5 million if you give me $2,000.” Would you give him the money or would you walk away, knowing it’s a scam? Then how does receiving an e-mail make the message any different?

Then, there’s the idea where the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. Which one of these is more likely:
1) You were selected in a random drawing to receive $5 million just by helping some foreign family. Even though you were selected as a winner, the e-mail you receive never mentions you by name and the message has been cc’ed to a number of other “lucky winners” whose e-mail addresses are similar to yours.
2) You’ve received a spam e-mail from people who want to steal your money.

jade (user link) says:


I have known a few people who, with the onset of senile dementia, began beleiving these scams. It takes time for the families to legally get control of their elder relatives’ assets (for good reason, there need to be safeguards in the process) and I beleive that the scammers know full well that they are preying upon that population, during that specific window of opportunity, when the critical faculties are diminished, and before the bleeding of assets can legally be controlled by a caretaker.

Artur says:

many people are just stupid

Mike, I completely disagree that these things are convincing. Most, if not all, of the people that fall for these things are just plain stupid. Greed is a factor, but I’m quite greedy myself (I play the lottery yet I have a strong understanding of statistics). But to fall for something this ridiculous is just beyond my comprehension. These are the same people that make me wish that people had to take tests to have children. I say they deserved it. If I ever fall for any such scheme (besides the lottery) then I will say “kudos, you got me” because I too will have deserved it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I tend to agree

Exactly… 419 does not care about the rest of us that are not easily parted with our money… They are concerned with the ‘too honest for their own good’, and the ‘so greedy I’m stupid’ types. The rest of us staare not of any consequence to them and are as much fodder.

The person that said that e-mail makes people stupid, you are somewhat correct in the fact that e-mail is more personal than some moron on the street coming to you and saying that you won the lottery. For the people that fall for it, they think that if they are getting an e-mail, that person had to have known the address and sent it directly to them; not understanding how spam works.

cak says:

artur: I am sorry, but knowing statistics and still playing the lottery is not greed, it is plain stupidity. If you are a regular player of the lottery, why don’t you work out how much you will spend over your lifetime on tickets, and what you could do with that money instead. It is often the stupid ones who claim that it is everyone else who is stupid (except for me, of course!). Plain stupidity (says while shaking his head).

beset says:

how innocent?

i was shocked originally by the Nigerian diplomat’s comments, having seen those who fall for these schemes as innocent victims. but on reflection the penny dropped – if you took them at their word, virtually every one of these emails i’ve seen would offer stolen, embezzled, misappropriated or otherwise illict money, including proceeds of war crimes and proceeds of corruption. The innocent victims of these scams are indeed knowingly seeking to profit from crime. If i went house to house asking people to conceal USD 10 million I had just stolen, people would call the police and wouldn’t think themselves blameless and innocent for pocketing it. Why is it any different if the money comes from Nigeria?

Anonymous Coward says:

Well that’s the thing – people don’t always believe it is stolen money – they think that the money belongs to the sender of the email and someone else is trying to steal it from them. They believe that they are doing someone a service and getting a hefty payment for their service. Like above, an e-mail address implies a known relationship. “They had to get my e-mail from a reputable source, it’s not widely available” they say as they empty 3000 junk emails from their junk mail folder.
As long as humanity walks on this earth there will be people who scam and people who allow themselves to be scammed. I knew someone who actually had a large jug of snake oil on top of their refrigerator. I was 12, so I thought it was badass, but now when I reflect on it, that guy got bamboozled. He probably paid like $100 or $200 for that jug of snake oil with a dead snake in it, and it probably cost the guy who made it $3 in vineger and a little time finding a snake to kill.

You guys can psychoanalyze and place blame whereever you would like, but the truth is that this kind of thing has been around for many hundreds of years. This is just another facet to the “scam” industry and anyone who falls for it is stupid. But the people scamming are at fault too and should be dealt with when they are apprehended. Both parties are at fault; one for being naive and the other for taking advantage of that naivete.

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