FBI Tech Tuesday: Nigerian 419 Scams

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against Nigerian 419 scams.

In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received almost 400 reports of 419 scams. The total losses reported by victims exceeded $1 million.

So what are Nigerian 419 scams? The number 419 refers to a section in Nigerian law concerning con artistry and fraud that deals specifically with people requesting assistance with transferring money. This scam has been around for a long time, but now more often than not, the scammer is contacting victims electronically.

What does this look like? An individual may contact you, often through e-mail, explaining that he needs help transferring a large amount of money. He tells you that political turmoil or a recent natural disaster in his country has affected his ability to transfer the money on his own. If you help him, he will allow you to keep some of the funds for yourself.

The scammer asks you to give him your financial information, including your bank account number, so he can complete the transfer. This allows him to access and steal from your accounts.

In another version of this scam, the fraudster may require that you pay a fee in order to facilitate the transfer. Once you pay the fraudster, and he sees that you’re willing to give him money, he continues to invent extra costs that he needs you to cover. As long as you keep paying, he keeps coming up with more expenses.

Regardless of which method the fraudsters use, these victims never see the promised jackpot.

So, how can you protect yourself?
* Don’t give anyone your bank account number or other financial information that could allow him to access your accounts.
* Don’t send money to strangers, unsolicited contacts, or people you don’t know face-to-face.
* Don’t transfer money on behalf of other people.
* Don’t trust anything that seems like an easy way to make a lot of money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have been victimized by this scam or any other online scam, report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.

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