Snopes.com states that a version of the current "Nigerian Scam" has been around, even in letter form, since at least the 1920s, when it was called the "Spanish Prisoner Scam." The basic idea is that someone contacts you requesting money to cover the cost of an emergency or requesting you to act as a go-between for transferring funds. Most people are aware of these types of scams by now, so the scammers have become much more adept at disguising who they really are. Watch for warning signs that you're talking to a Nigerian scammer.
Look at the addressee. In most cases, a Nigerian scammer will not know your real name. Contact from this person will be addressed to a generic person, such as "Dear Sir/Madame."
Ask yourself whether the contact seems to be too good to be true. A Nigerian scammer will likely offer a lot of money for you to do something. The amount will be disproportionate to the amount of work that you have to do for the person. This is because the person has no real intention of paying you. Additionally, a profile picture might be of someone exceptionally attractive.
Check the country code of any phone number you have for the person. The country code for Nigeria is 234.
Tips & Warnings
- Not everyone from Nigeria is a scammer and not all "Nigerian scammers" actually live in Nigeria. When dealing with anyone online, trust your gut.
- Never send money to a stranger and don't accept money in the form of a check or money order. These checks will be real enough to eventually clear your bank account, at which point you may feel safe sending the scammer money. Soon after clearing, however, the bank would realize the check was fake remove the money from your account.
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