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Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum. If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears. An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return. Fifo’s Fraud and the Detroit-Buffalo scam. While Nigeria is most often the nation referred to in these scams, they originate in other nations as well.

The number “419” refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders. In exchange for assistance, the scammer promised to share money with the victim in exchange for a small amount of money to bribe prison guards. 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. There are many variants of the letters sent. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman’s husband, and inquired about his health. 6 million investment, and ended with a telephone number. Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.