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Aussies sucked in by Nigerian scams

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Wednesday August 20, 2008 )

It’s hard to believe that the old Nigerian (aka 419 or advance fee fraud) scams still do so well; but they are and costing Australians around $36 million a year.

I know I’ve written about Nigerian scams quite a few times before; but there’s obviously a stack of people who still aren’t aware of them.

According to this article, Australians send at least 3 million bucks a month to Nigeria and at least 80 per cent is fraud related. Folks in New South Wales seem to be the ones that are hardest hit. It’s hard to get an accurate figure as many don’t report being fleeced.

I still find it really hard to believe the scam is so effective as it’s been around for so long – since at least the 80’s when it was perpetrated via phone and fax. My father was working in Consumer Affairs in the 80’s and said that even back then it was a really common scam. The advent of the Internet has made it a far cheaper and easier type of fraud to perpetrate.

It is difficult to feel any sympathy for the victims of many 419 scams as they usually involve the fraudster telling the victim that how they came across the money was by shady means anyway – embezzlement of government funds, income from bribes, asking the target to pose as the relative of a rich deceased person etc.

Some of the perpetrators play hard ball – a few victims have gone to the length of going to Nigeria to chase their money – and never returned.

However, there are some variations whereby it can really prey on disadvantaged persons who aren’t motivated by greed. I remember getting an email from a lonely disabled pensioner a couple of years back who said that a Nigerian “woman” befriended him and he wound up the victim of a reshipping scam. These fraudsters also run the same scam on people looking work – the shipping clerk scam.

Just on that point – reshipping scams are something that ecommerce merchants need to be very aware of. Merchants should also be very wary of doing business with Nigerian merchants and perform the necessary due diligence research before engaging in transactions.


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