419 n., adj.
Kathy M. Kristof, "Nigerian Money Con Targets Small Firms," Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2003
He had poured more than $300,000 into a Nigerian 419 scam, the label describing the legendary e-mails that promise millions but deliver nothing.
Jim Stratton, "Notorious e-mail scam snares Volusia retiree's nest egg," Orlando Sentinel, December 23, 2003
Bill Schiller, "Crooks and con men stain a national image," The Toronto Star, May 10, 1992
There probably aren't too many people in the wired world who haven't yet been pitched this phony get-rich-click scheme. Because it originates mostly in Nigeria, this nasty business is usually called the Nigerian scam, or more officially the advance fee fraud. Subscriber Simon Whitaker told me about the 419 scam variation. Why 419? That comes from the section number of the Nigerian penal code that covers this sort of fraudulent behavior.
Most people think of this as an e-mail scam, but its origins date to the 1980s, when the scammers would send out letters and faxes to businessmen and professionals around the world. E-mail only served to make the scam a more efficient operation. And, incredibly, it works. No one knows how many people get taken in each year or how much they lose (most of the duped feel too embarrassed to report the loss), but the FBI has said that it knows of 74 cases that occurred in 2002 alone, with losses totaling a whopping US$1.6 million.
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