Nigerian authorities, extremely sensitive about 419 crime, say the scammers are mostly from other countries, and that any Nigerians who participate do so because of high unemployment and, above all, the greed of victims.
When you get a reply, its 70% sure that youll get the money, a former scammer says.
(Sunday Alamba / AP) FESTAC, Nigeria — As patient as fishermen, the young men toil day and night, trawling for replies to the e-mails they shoot to strangers half a world away. But the few who actually reply make this a tempting and lucrative business for the boys of Festac, a neighborhood of Lagos at the center of the cyber-scam universe.
After noting Samuel's speed and skill, the crime boss, nicknamed Shepherd, invited him to his mansion to try extracting e-mail addresses using search engines.
Then, to make Samuel feel special, he took him shopping for designer clothes. When you're around him he makes you feel you have no problems," Samuel said.
"He said, 'The houses I own, I got it through all this.' And they're not just ordinary houses. The money he had, the cars." Eager to impress his new boss, Samuel worked for six-hour stretches extracting e-mail addresses and sending off letters that had been composed by a college graduate also working for Shepherd.
He sent 500 e-mails a day and usually received about seven replies. "When you get a reply, it's 70% sure that you'll get the money," Samuel said.It is where places like the Net Express cyber cafe thrive. until 7 a.m., so the cyber thieves can work in peace without fear of armed intruders.The atmosphere of silent concentration inside the cafe is absolute, strangely reminiscent of a university library before exams. In this sanctum, Samuel says, he extracted thousands of American e-mail addresses, sent off thousands of fraudulent letters, and waited for replies.They rationalize the crime by telling themselves there are no real victims: Maghas are avaricious and complicit.To them, the scams, called 419 after the Nigerian statute against fraud, are a game."For example, the offshore people will go to pose as the Nigerian ambassador to the U. They will show some documents: This has presidential backing, this has government backing. The scams often involve bogus Internet sites, such as lottery websites, or oil company, bank or government sites.