The infamous Nigerian prince emails have become so much a part of everyday society that they’ve actually turned into a pop culture joke. Unfortunately, that reality of email scams—many of them originating in Nigeria, hence the nickname, but in actuality coming from around the globe—is anything but amusing.
Nigerian prince emails actually have several different, more formal names. Sometimes called the “419 Scam” after the section of Nigeria’s criminal code that deals with fraud, or “Advanced Fee Scams” due to the fact that the victim pays money up front in exchange for promises of a greater return, these scams come in all shapes, sizes, iterations, and countries of origin.
With so many victims duped out of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, what makes them even the slightest bit funny? It’s the unbelievable stories behind them, many of which detail outrageous scenarios in nearly incomprehensible English, all intentionally designed to attract only the most gullible of would-be victims.
While it’s hard for authorities to track down every single origin of every single internet scam, that doesn’t mean they’re not out there searching. And their efforts have paid off in a big way this month, as INTERPOL and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) have tracked down and arrested a man who was responsible for more than $60 million in fraud and theft.
Along with an accomplice, the scammer known only by the single-name Mike ran an operation with as many as forty employees below him, all of whom were able to hack business email accounts and send out fake invoices to their customers and divert those payments to their own accounts. Their other tactic was “boss phishing,” or hacking a business email account and pretending to be the boss. They would then send instructions to an employee within the company, demanding sensitive information, the transfer of funds, or other fraudulent requests.
This is certainly not the first or the largest criminal to be snared through joint efforts of curbing internet fraud and crime. But the anonymous nature of this type of crime, coupled with the fact that all it takes is a computer and an internet connection, means criminals can be hard to identify and even harder to track down.
One thing that the public can do to help stem the flow of internet fraud is to stay on top of the latest scams and fraud attempts. While most users may have by now heard of the sad plight of thousands of Nigerian princes who need help moving their royal fortunes out of the country, new fraud variations come up every day. Boss phishing and text message “smishing” are new, for example, but old schemes like the lonely heart dating scams are still effective. Be aware of the threats to your identity and your funds, and help others understand the dangers of getting hooked by a scammer.
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