Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, the 419 scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, email, or fax is received by the potential victim. The communication from individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials or persons in need of assistance, offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars, soliciting for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are out of the country. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a facsimile number provided in the letter. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.
You receive an email, fax, or letter usually written in capital letters. The author of the email says they are looking for someone who will transfer the funds into their account for a cut of the total--usually around 30 percent. You'll be asked to travel overseas to meet with them and complete the necessary paperwork.
In reality, there is no money--except for the money you put up in advance. You will be instructed to pay thousands of dollars in "taxes," "attorney costs," "bribes," or other advance fees. You will suffer serious financial loss. Victims who travel overseas may find themselves physically threatened and not allowed to leave until they "pay up".