We've all received emails from Mrs Grace or Mr Tom who claim to be very wealthy entrepreneurs with a business proposition for you. If your email account is clever enough it filters them to spam, where they belong. You may be one of the lucky internet users who have not fallen for them, but for a time 419 scams were all the rage.
The 419 scam originates from Nigeria, though it has its roots firmly planted in 19th century Spain (known then as the Spanish Prisoner scam). The ultimate goal of one of these scams is to get you to deposit a large sum of cash or give out personal information that can be used to steal your identity, gain access to your bank accounts or for other more malicious criminal activities. You're enticed into doing so by being promised a large sum of money if you make the investment.
Though it has become synonymous with Nigerians, the 419 scam (the number being attributed to the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud) has become a popular form of criminal activity in many regions around the world. With the internet age, it has grown to epic proportions, affecting millions of people every year.
419 scams are successful because of the ingenuity used when conning a victim. The email scam might have lost its power, but fraudsters keep evolving their techniques. One such form of a 419 scam that has affected internet users is where criminals clone a person's Facebook profile. They then proceed to send a mail telling the victim's friends (who are the intended prey) that they are in trouble and need financial assistance and, if it is compelling enough, the friends will send money.
Others have involved creating fake profiles on dating sites, which bait the victim into believing they are speaking to the person the fraudster says they are. When the individual and fraudster develop a false bond, the criminal goes on to ask for financial assistance and the victim proceeds to pay. Other people have been conned into buying products from bogus websites, which look very similar to reputable online stores.
Today these scams may not have the power to entice you into parting ways with your money, but they are not to be taken lightly. Fraudsters are taking advantage of new technologies to entice their potential victims to fork out money.
If you want to stay clear of being defrauded, don't believe everything you hear or see when browsing the World Wide Web. Take care not to download unknown software, or give out personal information to strangers. When someone proposes a financial scheme, refer them to institutions that can fund it. If it sounds too good to be true on the net, then it probably is.