Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Nigerian Scam


The Nigerian Scam, also known as the 419 scam, is a fraudulent activity where the scammer pretends to be a Nigerian official or businessman offering a substantial amount of money for help in transferring it out of the country. The victim is asked to pay a fee or provide personal bank details to facilitate the transfer. However, the promised money never comes, and any paid fees or shared financial information are used deceitfully.


The phonetic spelling of “Nigerian Scam” is:Ni-jee-ree-uhn Skam

Key Takeaways


  1. Origin: The Nigerian Scam, also known as 419 fraud, originates from the section of the Nigerian law that deals with fraud schemes. This scam targets individuals and companies by using unsolicited emails or letters that promise huge profits in exchange for small upfront costs.
  2. Promise of High Rewards: These scams often involve promising the victim a significant share of a substantial sum of money, typically in the form of an email that appears to be from a government official, businessperson, or a member of a very wealthy family member (often portrayed as a royal family member). The scammer usually asks for help in moving large amounts of money in exchange for a portion of it.
  3. Money Upfront: To retrieve the promised money, the scammer will ask the victim to pay some fees or expenses before they can transfer the money. These advance fees could be for a variety of reasons such as legal fees, transaction fees, bribes for government officials, or taxes. The victim will not receive the promised large sum of money, and they will not be able to recover the upfront fees they have paid.



The term “Nigerian Scam,” also known as “419 Scam” or “Advance-fee fraud,” is important in business and finance due to its notorious reputation in defrauding individuals and businesses. Originating from Nigeria, as implicated by the name, this is an unscrupulous practice where scammers trick victims into paying certain amounts of money upfront with false promises of significantly larger returns or rewards. These scams often involve significantly overblown claims of wealth, lucrative business opportunities, or desperate needs for assistance. Despite strict global crackdowns, it continues to evolve and proliferate, posing significant risks to unsuspecting individuals or businesses. Thus, being aware of the ‘Nigerian Scam’ is critical to protect oneself from potential financial losses.


The Nigerian Scam, also known as 419 fraud, is a type of fraudulent practice that primarily involves online communication and is extensively used for illegal financial gains. It’s called the ‘Nigerian’ scam because it originated from Nigeria and the 419 code refers to the section of the Nigeria Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. The purpose of this deceitful activity is to dupe people into parting with their money under the impression of a false business proposition, often promising immense wealth or high returns on a minor initial investment. Generally, the scammers claim to be government officials or the relatives of wealthy deceased individuals, who need help in transferring a significant amount of money out of the country.The methodology for Nigerian scams can box in an array of fictional stories designed to lure the victims. They make use of e-mails, social media, or even letters to convey their fraudulent narratives. They typically ask for assistance in facilitating large-scale transfers of wealth, for which the victim is promised a substantial percentage. Though these scams require the victim to pay small upfront costs to facilitate the transfer, there is no actual money to be received. Instead, the scammers drain the victim’s funds while maintaining the illusion of a forthcoming massive payoff. Therefore, the main use of Nigerian scams is the illegal extraction of funds from their targets through deceit, manipulation, and false promises.


1. Unclaimed Money: One real-world example of a Nigerian scam involved an email sent from a supposed “high-ranking Nigerian official”. The email claimed that the official had millions of dollars stuck in a bank during a coup and needed a foreign account to transfer the money safely. The scammer then requested the recipient to provide personal bank account details, with promises of a substantial share of the funds. Once the scammer gained access to the bank account, instead of depositing money, they drained the account of existing funds.2. Inheritance Scam: In another example, the scammer posed as a lawyer or financial advisor, claiming their wealthy client had suddenly died leaving a substantial fortune. The recipient was told they were the next of kin or stood to inherit because their last name matched the deceased’s. However, a small processing fee was required to release these funds. Victims often found themselves transferring money with hopes of gaining a significantly larger inheritance, only to find out it was a scam.3. Romance Scam: In this variant, typically seen on dating sites, the scammer develops a relationship with the victim over several months. Once trust has been established, the scammer will tell tales of hardships, often involving medical emergencies or being trapped overseas with no funds. They’ll make desperate pleas and promises of repayment once they’re back home. Once they’ve gained financial assistance, they tend to disappear or continue the cycle until the victim becomes suspicious.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Nigerian Scam?

A Nigerian Scam, also known as a 419 scam, is a type of fraud that originated from Nigeria and has become associated with various online scams. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money in return for a small upfront payment, which the fraudster requires to conduct a particular transaction.

How does a Nigerian Scam typically operate?

Typically, the scam starts with an unsolicited communication, perhaps an email, from someone claiming to be a high-ranking official or a businessperson in dire circumstances. They offer the victim a share in a large amount of money if they can help them with a small upfront fee to release the supposed funds.

What is the purpose of the upfront payment in a Nigerian Scam?

The fraudster will claim that the upfront payment is needed for various reasons, such as transaction fees, bribes, or other expenses. The goal is to convince the victim to transfer money to the fraudster, who keeps it.

Why is it called a Nigerian Scam?

The scam is commonly associated with Nigeria because some of the earliest versions came from that country. However, such scams may come from anywhere and target victims all over the world.

How can I protect myself from a Nigerian Scam?

The best protection is skepticism. Be cautious of unsolicited communications promising large financial rewards for small upfront fees. Never share your personal financial information, and always verify the authenticity of any organization or person who reaches out with such a request. Always consult with a professional if you’re unsure.

What should I do if I fall victim to a Nigerian Scam?

If you think you’ve been scammed, it is essential to report it to your local law enforcement agency immediately. Also, contact your bank to see if they can stop the transaction. Your bank and law enforcement can guide you further.

Are Nigerian scams linked only to online communications?

No, while Nigerian scams have proliferated with the rise of the internet and email, they can also take place over traditional postal mail, fax, or telephone. It’s a form of scam that adapts to various communication methods.

Related Finance Terms

  • Advance-fee Fraud: This term refers to the type of scam where the victims are asked to pay upfront for goods or services that they will never receive. The Nigerian Scam is a common form of this fraud.
  • 419 Fraud: Named after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, this term is synonymous with the Nigerian Scam. It is characterized by promising the victim a significant share in a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment needed to release the funds.
  • Scam Baiting: This term refers to the practice of pretending interest in a fraudulent scheme in order to manipulate the scammer. It is commonly used in managing Nigerian, and other types, of scams.
  • Phishing: While not exclusively linked to Nigerian Scams, this technique is often used to gather personal information from victims, including passwords and credit card numbers, under the pretense of legitimate business.
  • Money Laundering: This term refers to the act of making illegally-gained proceeds appear legal, which is a common overarching aim of Nigerian Scams.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More