In that con, businessmen were contacted by an individual allegedly trying to smuggle someone connected to a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain.
In exchange for assistance, the scammer promised to share money with the victim in exchange for a small amount of money to bribe prison guards.
In exchange for transferring the funds out of Nigeria, the recipient would keep 30% of the total.
The scam messages often claim to originate in Nigeria, but usually this is not true.
The number "419" refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders.
If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim, or simply disappears.
There are many variations on this type of scam, including the 419 scam, the Spanish Prisoner scam, the black money scam and the Detroit-Buffalo scam.
The scam has been used with fax and traditional mail, and is now prevalent in online communications like emails.
Online versions of the scam originate primarily in the United States, the United Kingdom and Nigeria, with Ivory Coast, Togo, South Africa, Benin, the Netherlands, and Spain also having high incidences of such fraud.
Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
He said he wanted to transfer million to the recipient’s bank account – money that was budgeted but never spent.