The notorious “419 scams” have been around since the early days of the consumer internet.
419 scams are the elaborate internet frauds that try to convince people they unexpectedly come into money. Once a gullible victim takes the bait, they are duped into paying a range of ‘facilitation fees’ and costs that drains their saving.
The term 419 scam comes from the Nigerian criminal code that covers this crime, which was appropriate as most — although not all — of these emails originated from the country.
For a while in the early 2000s, internet users became used to receiving a few 419 scam emails every day but by the middle of the decade they largely dried up as the even the most gullible and greedy idiots became wise to the schemes.
That’s not to say they have completely vanished, this morning quite a distasteful one landed in my inbox.
I wish to seek your assistance to execute a business deal. I am Paul Williams a Contract Agent based in London. I require your consent to present you as next of kin to a client of mine, who died along with his wife and Two kids in the Asian Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines leaving behind a large sum of money without a next of kin. With your co-operation and information available to me you can make a claim on the funds as the next of kin to my deceased client. After release of the funds to you by the financial institution where it is lodged, we can share according to a percentage we agree upon. If you may be of assistance, please reply for further co-operation.
It’s unlikely that Paul Williams exists and even if he did it’s unlikely he’d have anything to do with this unsavory scam that most people would immediate bin when they receive it.
Binning the message was my reaction as well, but as I was about to, it occurred to me that there are enough venal, stupid people in the world who would agree to be involved in such a deal.
No doubt if you asked them they’d say defrauding the deceased family’s estate is a victimless crime as the money would only end up with the government anyway, these people would swear blind they are honest, honourable folk and no doubt they would think they are rather clever.
It’s worth reflecting that dishonest, venal and somewhat dim people do occasionally get their come-uppance in today’s world.