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“The Scourge of the Internet Age” – The New York Times reviews the Nigerian Internet Scam



Nigerian Internet Fraudsters - January 2014 - BellaNaija

It’s only days into the new year, and Nigeria is yet again profiled negatively on the international scene. This time because of the men of the PC, often called “Yahoo Yahoo Boys”. For the JJCs, they are internet fraudsters.

Yesterday, I happened to stumble on her article by The New York Times just published, profiling the Nigerian Internet Scam {Click to Read}.

The editor Daniel Engber wastes no time in getting to the origin of the online scamming business from the “Giants of Africa”, as well as revealing how Ibrahim Babangida‘s tenure as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria heightened the issue.

Nigerian Internet Scam - January 2014 - BellaNaija

Read the article;

The Nigerian scam may seem like a scourge of the Internet age, but it actually predates email. Before we started getting all-caps proposals in our inboxes, con men in West Africa plied their trade by fax and paper letter. Some of the first scams to make their way to Western Europe arrived by telex in 1989 and 1990, when businessmen in Britain started hearing that a wayward tanker of Nigerian crude could have its cargo claimed for bargain prices — in exchange, of course, for some cash upfront. Before then, Nigerian fraudsters aimed their grifts at locals. One scheme was the “wash-wash,” a literal money-laundering in which the mark is shown a valise of supposed bills blackened with Vaseline and iodine and promised a cut if he pays for an expensive cleaning agent.

Advance-fee or 419 scams, known by the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws fraud, took on a global character when oil prices crashed along with the national economy. A newly installed military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, cut salaries for civil servants and the military and ended price supports for the local currency. Within three years, the country’s inflation rate was greater than 38 percent. The English-speaking, entrepreneurial class found itself with little buying power and in need of foreign money. “Some of these guys came out and started perpetrating fraud,” says Andrew Apter, an Africa historian at U.C.L.A. “They used the language and insignias and letterhead of financial offices to lure people in.”

Apter has traced this sort of misuse of official iconography as far back as a century. When Nigeria was established as a colony under British rule in 1914, its first governor cracked down on scammers in fake uniforms who claimed to be collecting taxes on behalf of the empire. The advance-fee scam itself — whereby payments are extracted from a sucker who hopes to gain an enormous treasure — seems to have originated elsewhere. According to Robert Whitaker, a historian at the University of Texas, an earlier version of the con, known as the Spanish Swindle or the Spanish Prisoner trick, plagued Britain throughout the 19th century.

These days, an address in Lagos would seem to be a red flag for prospective dupes, but it may be helpful for some scammers. In 2012, a researcher with Microsoft named Cormac Herley tried to model the con artist’s behavior and concluded that a clear tip-off — an email address in Nigeria, for example — could, by scaring off the savvier or more suspicious sorts, enable them to focus on the most gullible victims.


In 2003, Mike Berry was a 41-year-old computer engineer in Manchester, England, when he started replying to Nigerian scammers over email for fun. His website,, provides a forum for likeminded “scam-baiters” and an archive of their most outrageous achievements.

After 10 years, are you still an active scam-baiter? I dabbled about five or six months ago — I like to keep my hand in. But in my heyday, it wasn’t unusual for me to have 15 or 30 scammers on the line at the same time. I’ve dealt with about 4,000 or 5,000 scammers since I started.

It sounds like a full-time job. It’s not really that tricky, if you’re good at accounting for where everything’s going. You’ll find a lot of scammers will twig straightaway and drop you like a hot cake. . . . You may only get 10 percent who will stick with you for a decent period of time.

So that’s your success rate — 10 percent? That’s for what we could call a decent success, either a long period of time keeping the guy busy, or what we would call a trophy. You know, like a funny picture, carvings, things like that.

It sounds as if you’re even better at this than they are. I’d be able to do a really good job, I think. I haven’t for one second contemplated doing that, of course. . . . I do remember I sent a scammer a fake passport, and it was such a good fake that at the end of the scam-bait, when he realized what had happened, he sent me an email and basically admitted to everything he was trying. He said that he was quite a high-up scammer, and he offered me a deal. He would pay me $12,000 a month for 10 passports to be created. You’ve got to think of what this guy must have been earning to offer me that kind of money!


  1. BOLA

    January 4, 2014 at 2:15 am

    Bella I wonder why you post these articles very late at night. If its taken u this long then why not just wait till morning to post them?

    • Sexxie

      January 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

      For some BN visitors, your late at night is early evening or even morning and vice versa. Be grateful and stop whining.

    • Tosin baby

      January 4, 2014 at 10:04 am

      The dumbest comment of all time… How does the time if the post affect you? You couldn’t even comment on the contents it’s the time that bothers you? I’m baffled… You deserve to get cusses but it’s a new year so I’ll leave it.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      January 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Different time zones for different readers, baby. BN needs to keep its international audience constantly fed & clicks from all over the world accounts for advertising opportunities from all over the world. This is a money making machine, baby 🙂

      And my take on this article – I can’t believe people are STILL getting duped by internet scammers. I’m not even interested in rising to the bait when the western world drones on about this so-called “Nigerian scourge”. My constant response is this – without greedy people, there would be no successful scammers. How you sef siddon dey plan to reap free millions from helping one African princess you met via email? You just heard about billions and lost your powers of deductive reasoning? Criminal mentality.

    • enkayz

      January 5, 2014 at 5:42 am

      Its plain greed and stupidity. They want reap where they did not sow. Why can’t nytimes call their people (victims) out? Because they don’t want to acknowledge that Africans can outsmart them

    • Teris

      January 9, 2014 at 10:16 am

      @BN, about that “like” button….

  2. Arewa

    January 4, 2014 at 4:07 am

    Waiting for the comments about NYTIMES spreading negative stereotypes of Nigerians.

    This is so embarrassing but true. Unfortunately.


    January 4, 2014 at 4:11 am


    Pls visit my blog

  4. damilola

    January 4, 2014 at 4:48 am

    It’s greedy men that usually fall in the trap of scammers so its balanced

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      January 4, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      God bless you mightily!

  5. Confuzzled

    January 4, 2014 at 4:57 am

    This is so utterly stupid.

    So, in the age where debit card data is stolen en masse from businesses like Linkedin, Bank of America, Target, etc (often by eastern European hackers who go on to sell the data online), in a time where civilian personal data has been surreptitiously and perhaps illegally collected by the US government, the best the NYT could do was to publish a fluff piece on small time scammers that strike big if they make a few thousand grand off some greedy fool? Way to focus on the real story.

    Who are the real criminals here? People are committing Oceans 11 level heists over here and you’re instead focusing on the pickpockets on the streets? And smear an entire nation of people while you’re at it.

    I’m so tired of this isht. And I place the blame on the Nigerian people that refuse to pursue legal means of making money, on a Nigerian government that doesn’t do enough little to crack down on perpetrators/create worthwhile opportunities, and a Nigerian Government that knows nothing about image management.


  6. Confuzzled

    January 4, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Now THAT’s a NYT article that we should be talking about.

  7. Sopono

    January 4, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Where is the link to the original article for plagiarism sake

  8. bukky

    January 4, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Im not surprised about this 419 thing. 9JA’s cerebrates power and men in Money regardless where they get their money from. This things stains people like me who work hard for their coins lol

  9. Thelma

    January 4, 2014 at 7:35 am

    One thing you must give Nigerians, we are smart people. Unfortunately some of us decided to use their super powers for evil. Lol. The writer of this article must have done some serious research, I remember when that wash-wash scam was going on, tons of people fell for it. I had to laugh @ the scammers in 1914 in fake uniform, collecting money fraudulently. It’s really not funny but the thought that 419 has been going on for that long is something to wonder about.
    Unfortunately this isn’t something that’s going to end anytime soon.

    Hey guys, visit and join me as we try to unravel the mystery; Why do women hate each other?

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      January 4, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      It’s been going on for longer than that, babes, with confidence tricksters in Europe running the same playbook from the 16th century. We learnt very well from our colonial masters.

  10. Sexxie

    January 4, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Sad but true. I remember how back in the days Festac was the HQ of 419 activities, mostly by my igbo brothers. There was a popular Business centre in my Close and they went there in tens to send or receive fax and make calls. The bigger boys had fax machines and the digital 01- 589…number in their homes. What they did was wrong but they made life pretty interesting, parties, expensive gifts for girlfriends, fast cars. Even as junior high students, I and my friends dreamt of finishing high school fast and getting married to them lol! Some even took chieftaincy titles and were known and addressed as such. Etiokwe Eriokwe, Enyi Oha, Udo Akpuenyi etc. And their wives, Lolos. Wonder what became of most of them.

  11. Ese

    January 4, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Silly guy referring to a $12,000 offer, that’s another scam duh!


    January 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Scam in Africa/Nigeria will never come to a HALT if the so called MAGA continues to pay and also the scam/419 kingpin’s that own most of the hotels on the Island/Ajao Estate keep making more money from scam and camouflaging as a CEO’S of there company’s which incourages and gives hope to the younger generation of scamers to be.. #myopenion #Straightface..

  13. @IamMcPetros

    January 4, 2014 at 8:40 am

    No Comment. 9ja go better.

    Read, OverStand n Comment.

    Thank You!

  14. pinky

    January 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

    They always have to paint us black just to get ahead of themselves.

  15. Lexus

    January 4, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Negative or positive, it is the truth. So instead of complaining about the “western media” spreading “negative stereotypes” work on making your country better.

  16. CarliforniaBawler

    January 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

    If to say na lie, I for vex….
    Some peeps will come on here to flex muscle about international media throwing shade on our image….abegi!! I don’t get how we develop selective amnesia once the rest of the world decides to comment 419 and yahoo scams. I grew up knowing about peeps that were accused to have gained their wealth from 419. In the 2000s almost every young Nigerian college aged guy dabbled into yahoo…..they were our classmates, boyfriends, friends, siblings and family members (the shame that struck me didn’t have part 2 when i went on the home PC and my visiting cousin was signed in as Jenna Davidson….chai). Well my point is I wonder why we all act like its a myth!! & them oyinbo people are lying. Please they have the right to run their mouths, afterall its their people (friends and family) that are being scammed/solicited.
    What i find intriguing is that there’s an ‘African historian’ who studies the history of corruption and fraudulence in Nigeria….thats a very intersting career choice I must say…orishirishi professor la’lagbon (in orlando owoh’s voice)

    • whocares

      January 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      LMAOOOOOOOOOO. Orishirisi professor la’lagbon KILLED me! lool

  17. Thatgidigirl

    January 4, 2014 at 11:10 am

    oh puhleeeeze! The bait is greed! how wld someone out of nowhere tell u to help him claim his inheritance or some funny story of that sort and you jump at it? is it ur money?did u work for it?

  18. Iris

    January 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    “Advance-fee or 419 scams, known by the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws fraud, took on a global character when oil prices crashed along with the national economy. A newly installed military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, cut salaries for civil servants and the military and ended price supports for the local currency”
    He forgot to add that Babangida, like many other African leaders, was forced by the World Bank and IMF to cut public spending in order to receive funding and get out of the debt that shook a great part of the continent. He also forgot that for this very act, Babangida became the Golden Boy of the West. I detest Babangida and his corruption as much as the next person, but let’s not forget to distribute the blame fairly when we talk about structural adjustment.

  19. Iyke

    January 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    That’s ok. Every nation has her sore point.
    The best we are, and the best we shall ever be, is right ahead of us. We shall get there as a nation.
    Proudly Nigerian.

  20. Dr. N

    January 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I tried replying one of them once to ask him how gullible he felt I was and he cussed me out. Suffice to say I’ll never try it again. String them along? No, thanks.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      January 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      I did the same thing once but it was me who was doing the cussing out. He/she never got back to me…

  21. James

    January 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    It pains me when this ”self-confessed” righteous people paints others black. Have d people in US today is a convict though i can not deny the fact that some Nigerians are painting us black.

  22. sisimacy

    January 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    There would be no scammers if there isn’t greedy [email protected] socially awkward,How u doin darling!

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      January 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      I dey oh, we thank God… Happy New Year, chick!

    • Hi

      January 5, 2014 at 3:40 am

      Hi, Mz. Happy 2014. 🙂

  23. Mrs Nwosu

    January 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    This publicity of Nigrria being a scam nation is becoming irritable, and this westerners are taking it to a ehol new height to the point that Nigeria is tagged a high risk nation. Once i travelled out and came back and naija msn was updated i cudnt log on to my amazon account i chatted the general forum on how to resolve the issue and one cloen there said i cannot be trusted cos my country is known for scamming. However it was resolved after giving them all the details i had at the time of registering the account. I mean its crazy to label an entire nation of that kind of thing. Something need to be done and quickly too.

  24. Mrs Nwosu

    January 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Sorry a whole new height

  25. NNENNE

    January 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Where do we go from here?
    As the federal government makes efforts to bridge the educational gap in the North, they locate more industries in areas considered very educated.

    The federal presence should be felt all over.
    Ever wondered why Lagos is over populated?

  26. NNENNE

    January 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Oops. “They should locate…..”

  27. Product of public Education

    January 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Na today…..

  28. Stephanie

    January 6, 2014 at 5:09 am

    Thks Bella for the post

  29. Mike

    January 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Like father (corrupt political office holders) like son (yahoo boys)….the country where scammers scam scammers….a smart scammer in school duped students and even yahoo boys of school fee and giving them official receipt….advice: BE SMART! DONT BE A FOOL!….even the interview na scam…u think scammers will ever say a word of truth? In your dream….oh,pele Nigeria!

  30. Kwakwacity

    January 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Well some where my neighbours back at Lagos(Island) kojo, Dagogo, Chiefo just to name a few! Their Aliases Sha that’s just how they are!

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