Have you ever received one of those so-called "confidential" e-mails from the African sub-continent (normally Nigeria) concerning a lucrative proposal? According to such e-mails, all you need to do is something simple and millions of US dollars are yours for the asking. Strange as it may seem, a sizeable number of recipients seem to fall for this approach.
According to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), a partnership that has been forged in the USA between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center, this type of fraud makes up nearly 15.5% of the 49 711 complaints it received in 2001. Total reported losses, including scams associated with deceptive practices and identify theft, are estimated to exceed $18 million a year.
The "Nigerian" scam usually asks victims for their assistance in transferring funds to an overseas bank account. This assistance is needed urgently, usually because of some tragic set of personal circumstances or because of a worsening political situation. Victims are asked for contact details (telephone number, fax number and address) and bank account information.
At some point, the victims are usually asked to contribute to miscellaneous expenses in the processing and transferring the money to the account. If the victims pay then further problems occur that require more money. This continues until the victims guess what is happening or run out of money; on average the scam nets $5500 a victim and, in one case, the victim lost $78 000.