One variant of the scam may date back to the 18th or 19th centuries, as a very similar letter, entitled "The Letter from Jerusalem", is seen in the memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq, a former French criminal and private investigator. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman's husband, and inquired about his health.
Another variant of the scam, dating back to circa 1830, appears very similar to what is passed via email today: "Sir, you will doubtlessly be astonished to be receiving a letter from a person unknown to you, who is about to ask a favour from you...", and goes on to talk of a casket containing 16,000 francs in gold and the diamonds of a late marchioness. It then asked what to do with profits from a .6 million investment, and ended with a telephone number.
In exchange for transferring the funds out of Nigeria, the recipient would keep 30% of the total.
To get the process started, the scammer asked for a few sheets of the company’s letterhead, bank account numbers, and other personal information.
- Their last names are usually Cole, Moore, Smith or Williams - They say they are "XX by name" and "XX by age" - They say "am" instead of "I am", for example: "am Williams by name..." - They say "hope to read from you soon" - They say they are from Keller, VA. Because it has the same zip code as Nigeria: 23401 - Their occupation is often "building contractor" or "civil engineer" for men and "model" or "nurse" for women - Their introductory letter often contains the phraze: "Remeber the distance or colour does not matter but love matters alot in life." (typical for Senegal scammers) - They immediately want to get off the website and onto Yahoo IM or MSN IM - They are not usually around on the weekends to IM - They IM at unusual hours for your time zone - Their profile seems to disappear off the website immediately after conversation begins - Their spelling is atrocious - They are notorious for using 'i' instead of 'I' - They consistently use webspeak or abbreviations: u r ur cos pls/plz ma sry brb div acc - Their grammar is not consistent with how Americans speak, French speak etc...
- They often mix up their phrases: i will like to heer from you soonest I am kool Do you have anyman you care to meet Do you have any man you planning to meet Looking for someone to love and care for in life Am cheerfull in life I will like to meet someone that is careing and loveing for real in life i am too young for my age if you don't know Ok so how will you feel if i says i dont mind you i will like you to be my best friend You are so pretty for my likeness - They appear uneducated with their speaking/writing skills - They misunderstand our slang or comparisons such as night owl/early bird, poker face - They immediately start using pet names with you: hon/hun baby/babe sweety/sweetie - They over-use emoticons - They are notorious for using BUZZ - They do not like to answer personal questions about themselves and tend to ignore questions - The details they give you on IM are often different that what was stated on their profiles, one of the more common ones they give different answers to is their birthdate, height/weight, and age - If you catch them on an inconsistency they will claim a friend or relative must've been using their id to chat with you, they will always try to come up with a coverup and of course, you are always wrong or mistaken - They often misspell the cities/towns they claim they are from and are unfamiliar with any of the local landmarks and attractions - They do not know common questions that every US citizen would know the answer to - If you ask them a question they don't know they will usually be offline for a length of time so they can go look up the answer on the internet always claiming they had a phone call or had to go to the bathroom etc..
Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
He said he wanted to transfer million to the recipient’s bank account – money that was budgeted but never spent.
One reason Nigeria may have been singled out is the apparently comical, almost ludicrous nature of the promise of West African riches from a Nigerian prince.The sums involved are usually in the millions of dollars, and the investor is promised a large share, typically ten to forty percent, in return for assisting the fraudster to retrieve or expatriate the money.Although the vast majority of recipients do not respond to these emails, a very small percentage do, enough to make the fraud worthwhile, as many millions of messages can be sent daily.An email subject line may say something like "From the desk of barrister [Name]", "Your assistance is needed", and so on.The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it.