Interview with a Nigerian 419 scammer

The British Scam Detective site conducted a three-part interview with a self-identified reformed Nigerian 419 scammer, who described how the scams work. Scam Detective has a disclaimer on these posts to the effect that the facts can't be verified, so take them for what they're worth -- it's still fascinating reading.

Scam-Detective: How did you get involved in scamming people on the Internet?

John: I come from a poor family in Lagos, Nigeria. We did not have very much money and good jobs are hard to find. I was approached to work for a gang master when I was 15, because I had done well in school with my English, and was getting to be good with computers. The gang master was offering good money and I took the chance to help my family.

Scam-Detective: Do you think that your teachers at school had reported your talents to the gang master?

John: Yes. There is a lot of corruption in Nigeria and the gangs pay well to find people with good English skills to work the scams...

John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the "foot soldiers", kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.

Interview with a scammer: Part one, Part two, Part three

(via Schneier)

(Image: The scam truck, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from jepoirrier's photostream)

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