According to Cormac Herley, a Microsoft researcher, "By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select." In Nigeria, scammers use computers in Internet cafés to send mass emails promising potential victims riches or romance, and to trawl for replies.
They refer to their targets as Magas, slang developed from a Yoruba word meaning "fool".
An email subject line may say something like "From the desk of barrister [Name]", "Your assistance is needed", and so on.
The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it.
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An advance-fee scam is a form of fraud and one of the most common types of confidence trick.
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This scam usually begins with the perpetrator contacting the victim via email, instant messaging or social media using a fake email address or a fake social media account and making an offer that would allegedly result in a large payoff for the victim.To help persuade the victim to agree to the deal, the scammer often sends one or more false documents which bear official government stamps, and seals.419 scammers often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the Internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves.While Nigeria is most often the nation referred to in these scams, they originate in other nations as well.In 2006, 61% of internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, while 16% were traced to the United Kingdom, and 6% to Nigeria.
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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), "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." There are many variations of this type of scam, including the 419 scam (also known as the Nigerian Prince scam), the Spanish Prisoner scam, the black money scam, Fifo's Fraud and the Detroit-Buffalo scam.