Some other FAQs (Frequently asked questions)

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Staff member
1. Why is it sometimes called the Nigerian 419 scam? Answer
2. Are scammers criminals? Yes.
3. Why doesn't someone just arrest these criminals? Answer
4. If someone gets scammed they are just greedy and deserve it, don't they? Answer
5. I know it's a scam mail, should I respond to it? Answer.
6. Are all Nigerians scammers? No.
7. If I send money to a scammer, aren't I helping the local economy? Answer.
8. How did the scammer get my email address anyway? Answer.
9. Why is the scammer targeting me? Answer
10. I wrote the scammers but I was just playing with them. Not a problem! Answer.
11. I sent money. Can I get it back? Can you help me get it back? Answer.
12. The scammer sent me an attachment. Should I open it? Answer.
13. Are you guys the police? No. Read more.
14. OK, so who are you guys then, anyway? Answer.
15. Could a scammer join AFI? Answer.
16. The scammer sent a phone number. Could you find the scammer? Answer.
17. Is my personal information safe here? Answer.
18. I received an email warning me and directing me to this site. Read more.
19. How did you find me? How did you get my email? Answer.
20. Do you have an office? Answer.
21. How can I help? Answer
22. Can I have your phone number? Answer
23. I would like you to help me get a passport or visa. Answer.
24. I would like to apply for a loan. What is your loan process? Answer.
23. I would like you to help me get a job. Answer.


Staff member
Why is it sometimes called the Nigerian 419 scam?

This refers to the Nigerian Criminal Code, which is available here:

419 refers to a specific section of the Criminal Code under Chapter 38, "Obtaining property by false pretenses, cheating", which says:
419. Any person who by any false pretence, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

If the thing is of the value of one thousand naira or upwards, he is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

It is immaterial that the thing is obtained or its delivery is induced through the medium of a contract induced by the false pretence.

The offender cannot be arrested without warrant unless found committing the offence.
Also notable is section 419A (added as an amendment)
419A. (1) Any person who by any false pretence or by means of any other fraud obtains credit for himself or any other person-

(a) in incurring any debt or liability; or

(b) by means of an entry in a debtor and creditor account between the person giving and the person receiving credit,

is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

(2) The offender cannot be arrested without warrant unless found committing the offence.
and section 419B:
419B. Where in any proceedings for an -offence under section 419 or 419Ait is proved that the accused-

(a) obtained or induced the delivery of anything capable of being stolen; or

(b) obtained credit for himself or any other person, by means of a cheque that, when presented for payment within a reasonable time, was dishonoured on the ground that no funds or insufficient funds were standing to the credit of the drawer of the cheque in the bank on which the cheque was drawn, the thing or its delivery shall be deemed to have been obtained or induced, or the credit shall he deemed to have been obtained, by a false pretence unless the court is satisfied by evidence that when the accused issued the cheque he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did in fact believe, that it would be honoured if presented for payment within a reasonable time after its issue by him.
There's also a Nigerian law passed in 2006, the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offenses Act at Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006.htm

Spanish Admin

THE Spanish Administrator
Staff member
Are scammers criminals?

Yes. Scammers are criminals. They are nothing but criminals.

But I've heard some scammers think that scamming is just a game...
Cricket is a game. Golf is a game. Scamming is a crime. Of course, humans can come up with about anything to justify what they do, and scammers salve their consciences (assuming they actually have one) by saying that it's just a game and it doesn't hurt anyone. No harm, no foul.

But some of us here have worked with too many people at the other end of the scam, people who have lost their hearts and affections, people who have lost thousands of dollars, people who have lost their homes, or people who have lost their families through divorce. For them, scamming is not a game. It's all too real and painful and it isn't a game to them, it's a major meltdown in their life. Scamming is not a victimless game. It is ALWAYS a crime.


Staff member
Why doesn't someone just arrest these criminals?

That's a fair question and I'll try not to write a long lawyer answer. The short answer is that there isn't really any way to do that.

Let me give an example. Let's say there is a bank near you and someone robs the bank. There is a "locus delicti", which means the "place of the wrong", according to Black's Law Dictionary. When the bank is robbed, there are police who can respond to the place of the crime and there are things they begin to do to find the person who robbed the bank. If arrested, that person is tried under the applicable law in that jurisdiction (state, province, or country).

But in cyberspace, where is the place of the wrong? Where does the crime occur? As an example, let's say a man is scamming from an internet cafe in Lagos. He scams people using an email provided by He scams and steals money from someone in the U.S. Where does the crime occur? In Nigeria where the scammer is physically located? In the U.K. where the email provider is hosted? Or in the U.S., where the victim is located? This is a crime of international proportions, and there isn't any clear law that is applicable on an international level. There are no international anti-scam treaties, although it would be nice if there were.

The scammer has broken the law in Nigeria under section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code (see above^^^). He has broken the law in Nigeria but someone has to arrest him, put him on trial, and convict him for that crime. Unfortunately, the problem is so large the Nigerian police are not able to cope with it, although they do occasionally make arrests for scamming.

It would be harder to argue that a crime has been committed in the U.K., although laws there might cover internet crime such as scamming. But the man in Lagos would still have to be arrested and then the U.K. would have to request his extradition to the U.K. to face criminal charges there.

The same would apply to the U.S. where the victim is, in this example. Under U.S. law, the Americans often argue what is called the "effects principle", that is, although a crime starts outside the U.S., the effect of the crime is inside the U.S. An agressive U.S. prosecutor could charge the Nigerian with a crime, but again the scammer would have to be arrested and extradited to the U.S. to face trial. This can be done, but it requires a strong criminal case and a lot of cooperation between the Nigerian and U.S. governments. That might or might not happen.

So there is the problem of where the crime happens. There is also the problem of getting law enforcement agencies to take scamming seriously. In many cases, they simply don't, or they can't do very much. If someone sends $100 to a Russian romance scammer, what police force has the time to investigate the crime? I don't know what the threshhold level is for getting law enforcement to take scamming more seriously. $1,000? $5,000? $10,000? $50,000? Still, some law enforcement agencies in some countries are beginning to take this more seriously and that's the good news.

It's just difficult to arrest the scammers and even harder to prosecute them. When law enforcement can do more because they have stronger laws to work with, then more arrests can be made. In the meantime, we have to settle for what arrests we can get. And we do try very hard to get them arrested.


Staff member
If somone gets scammed they are greedy and deserve it, don't they?

That's a rather trite answer to the problem, not to mention a gross generalization and an extreme oversimiplification. Beyond the existential possbilities of debating the question, the general answer is no, they don't deserve it.

There are many types of scams, and there are about as many reasons for getting caught up in it as there are types of scams. For example, a romance scam victim is a person who has been looking for human warmth and affection, a person who merely turned to the internet to find it. Is that greedy? How does greed fit into the picture? It doesn't, that I see.

And from what others have told me (people who work with victims) many times it is not greed that drives them, but need. Many people see this as a golden chance to escape from a bad financial situation they are in. They want to improve things for their families. One woman received a "winning" lottery letter just before Christmas and thought that this was a Miracle on 34th Street, a gift from God at Christmas-time when she had lost her job and was concerned about how her family would enjoy Christmas. Is that greed? Not in my book.

Yes, people might be greedy, and I won't deny that greed could be a part of their motivation. Who among us does not have that urge for a little something extra? That's why there are lotteries (real ones). We'd all like something more than we have. Those who are without sin can be the first stone-casters.

There are other victims, however, who really seem to be clueless as to how they got into a scam in the first place. Miyuki says that some victims she works with seem to find it difficult to grasp the concept that scamming on the internet is even possible. Some people simply do not have the psychological toolkit to recognize internet fraud until it jumps up and bites them. This is like a modern 21st Century life skill that people need which unfortunately is not taught anywhere except the school of hard knocks. And at websites like this.

No, they are not all greedy, and no one deserves to be a scam victim.

De Master Yoda

Good post

Thank you Kit Kat, I was going to post a similar thing, but yours is a lot better than I could have done!!
You are spot on! A lot of the victims of these scams do NOT deserve the heartache and loss that results from the action of these crooks.
The old age pensioner who suddenly sees an opportunity to get some money to enable Him/her to help their grandchildren through school. Or to assist their relatives to maybe get their own house are not greedy people, but are acting out of compassion and feelings to help others!
The father who has worked hard to provide for his family and then loses all his reserves and gets into debt, does not deserve this either!
No:Most of the victims are normal honest people, who are acting out of the very best of intentions and are worthy of any assistance we can offer!
True there are a few who act out of greed, but they are in the minority and the rest of the people do not deserve to be tainted with the same brush!
How would anyone feel if it was their own aged parents who had lost all their life's savings just so that a crook could live the high life??
Many of us have had to deal with the aftermath of the callous actions of these crooks and It is not an easy task! And one thing has stood out! That most of the victims are just ordinary honest people who have maybe relied on the word of a crook or conman!!

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
I know it's a scam mail, should I respond to it?

No, you really don't want to do that. There are three main reasons, one of which the scammer already knows.

1. You're telling a scammer that he is a scammer. That's like telling a cat that it is a cat. What's the point? The only thing you can accomplish is tell the scammer that YOU know he is a scammer, which, while however cathartic that may be, is not a good idea. This is because....

2. ....when you respond, you tell the scammer that the email address (yours) is an active email. This is inviting yourself to be put on the scammer's mail list. So, one scam format doesn't work with you today. He'll try a different one next month. And the month after that. And the month after that. Or he will give or sell your email to some other scammer and they will start the flood of scam mail. Also, responding is not good because....

3. ....depending on your email host (yahoo, hotmail, etc), you may be revealing more information about you than you realize. These servers do not remove the IP address which can tell a scammer the general location of where you live. Using the IP and doing a quick google search on your name can reveal your exact personal information like where you live etc. That isn't information you want to give away.

The best thing to do with any scam email is to delete and not to respond to it, no matter how tempting it may be. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Gentle Giant

Giant Admin for a Day
Staff member
Are all Nigerians scammers?

No. Fortunately.

In fact, it is estimated, by whoever it is that estimates these things, that there are only 300,000 scammers in Nigeria. That's out of a total population of 140,000,000 according to their most recent, and probably reasonably accurate, census. That means that only .0002% of the Nigerian population are scammers.

That said, however, those 300,000 give the other 139,700,000 Nigerians a bad name, which is a shame. I had many Nigerian friends in university days, and I can say that any Nigerian I ever met is one of the friendliest, nicest, and warmest people you could ever want to meet.

The damage that scammers cause to Nigeria is incalculable. Aside from fostering a culture of rampant corruption, it also causes people in other countries to NOT want to invest their money and resources in Nigeria. This hurts everyone there. And that is one reason that Nigerians work with us to help stop the scammers, and their risk is great.

The Nigerian government is "trying" to crack down on scamming, and they do occasionally arrest some scammers and put them in jail. (See our video section). But it's kind of like killing a hydra. For every scammer arrested, 3 more spring up.

The battle is fought on many fronts.


Staff member
If I send money to a scammer, aren't I helping the local economy?

You would be helping the scammer's local economy. That is, you would help him. You would enable him to buy imported clothes, buy a car, buy the attention of women, wear lots of gold jewelry, etc. You would also encourage him to act like a thug, gangsta, or pimp, which he might be anyway.

If you want to give money away, there are ways you can do that which have a longer lasting and better social effect. These are some of the organisations I can think of offhand that could spend money to a better purpose:
United Nations Children's Fund -
Intl Committe of the Red Cross/Red Crescent-
Save the Children -
Habitat for Humanity -
Medicins sans Frontieres -

In addition, there might be local religious groups in your community which have programs designed to help people in need. All of them can spend money to a better social or economic purpose than a criminal can.

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
How did the scammer get my email address anyway?

There are a couple of ways scammers get email addresses. The first is simply to find what is "out there" on the internet. Google search your email address sometime and you might be suprised what you find. One place scammers love to look is "guestbooks". Been to an internet site you really like? Did you write a message in a guestbook and give your email address? Well the people who make the webpage have your email address so they can write you, and scammers can find it too.

Another thing the scammers use to find emails is called an "extractor file". It is pretty much what the names says. It is a program used to extract email addresses from the internet. Using an extractor program, they can get thousands of email addresses in a short time. Once extracted, your email address can easily be used to mass mail out a scam email.

Another place scammers can get your email is from other scammers. However it is that one scammer gets your email, he can then pass it on to other scammers. They make lists too just like the spamming junk e-mailers. They buy, sell or trade these lists with one another.

Once on a scammer's mail list, the scam mails won't stop. For this reason, you may want to consider getting an entirely new email. While that is confusing for important people in your life, it can stop the scam mail. The rule here is like all other personal information: keep it personal and never give it to someone you don't know and trust.

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
Why is the scammer targeting me?

Nothing personal, it's just business. The scammer is looking for victims. He sends out thousands of emails waiting for someone to respond.

If you have only received an initial scam email (which you know is a scam after you check here:, then welcome to the crowd. We all get them every day. Of course, we ask for them, but that's another story. If it's the first mail, delete it and don't worry about it. You won't hurt the scammer's feelings if you do, and if you do hurt his feelings, it doesn't matter. He's a crook.

If you have responded to the scammer and he writes back, he's targeting you because he sees you as a potential gold mine. That's all. He doesn't care about your age, your gender, your politics, your religion, your ethnic background, where you live, or your income level. He just wants your money. If you answer him, you just encourage him to try and steal money from you. If you stop, he'll probably go away after a while.

Occasionally, in a next-of-kin scam, you might be targeted because you have the same last name as the deceased person, but there really isn't a deceased person and you aren't going to inherit a lot of money.

Other than that, really, it's just business for the scammer. It has nothing to to with you as a person.

Spanish Admin

THE Spanish Administrator
Staff member
I wrote the scammers but I was just playing with them. Not a problem!

Well, actually it could be. Remember that a scammer is a criminal and some of these scammer/criminals can be very dangerous. It is certainly possible that they could commit murder if they wanted to. They have done it before and will do it again.

Even if you think the scammer is somewhere on the other side of the world from you, that is no guarantee of your safety. Scammer/ criminals do have friends, and you don't know where those friends live. Some of them might be in your area. You don't want people like this showing up at midnight at your front door with baseball bats in hand.

It is possible for you to play with the scammers and waste their time. That is called "Scambaiting". However, baiting must be done safely. And if you don't know how to bait, then don't even think about it. You are potentially placing yourself in danger, especially if the scammer/criminal has your address, etc.

If you want to learn how to bait, PM an admin or mod and we can steer you in the right direction.

Spanish Admin

THE Spanish Administrator
Staff member
I sent money. Can I get it back? Can you help me get it back?

Well, very sorry, but the answers are: mostly likely no, and no.

We're sorry to hear you sent money but it would be almost impossible to ever get your money back. The money has gone to a criminal and criminals are not noted for being charitable and returning money they have stolen from people. Now, if you sent money to a scammer in Nigeria, the government of Nigeria has set up an agency called the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Their mission is twofold: to arrest scammers and to try and return money to victims. You can try and file a claim with them ( but I don't know how much money they have to actually give back to victims. It probably depends on what they can recover from scammers. And there's no telling how much paperwork there is and how much time it will take.

But guess what? Scammers know all about the EFCC, and they often like to pose as EFCC agents who will promise to get your money back. However, it is most likely that anyone who approaches you in this manner is probably the same scammer who already took your money. He's just coming back for more.

There are also companies that claim they will be able to get your money back for you. But even the legitimate ones will charge fees, etc, so you'd never get the full amount back anyway. Extreme caution is advised in dealing with any person or company who claims they can get your money back.

We can't help you get money back because we have no official status or authority to do anything like this, although we certainly wish we could. The money is gone. We wish we could get it back for you but it is virtually impossible for you to ever get it back.

If you have sent money, it's still a good idea to go to your local law enforcement agency and at least file a report with them. There isn't much they can do but at least you are on the record. The other thing you can do is to not be silent about being a scam victim. Tell everyone you know. You might even talk to your local media. And by talking, you may help someone else from becoming a victim.

Gentle Giant

Giant Admin for a Day
Staff member
The scammer sent me an attachment. Should I open it?

No. You should never open any attachment that comes in a scam email. It simply isn't safe and might contain a virus. Now, most scammers are not going to send you a virus. A virus can mess up the operating system of your computer, and that is counter-productive for a scammer. A scammer does not want you to have problems with your computer because if you can't open your email, he can't steal your money.

That said, a lot of scammers work in internet cafes which have many computers which are used by a lot of people a lot of the time. Those computers are probably like a cesspool of viruses, so it is possible a scammer might send out a virus, but if he does, that's probably an accident. He doesn't really mean to do it unless he's just being malicious.

On the other hand, as scammers become more technically savvy, some of them, especially the eastern Europeans (called Vlads), may send out spyware (also called spybots) or trojan viruses. These are really programs that will install themselves on your computer. This could allow the vlad to have access to your computer and everything in it. Like all your personal information, not to mention any credit card information. They would love to have that, then could could use your credit card until they hit your credit limit. Vlads and other scammers do try to get this information and there are actually webpages where they auction off credit card numbers to anyone who wants them. Don't let your card become one of them.

Also, in a scam email, scammers often put in links to other webpages. These are usually stories about plane crashes or rebellions in African countries which they use a lot in next-of-kin or business scams. These links seem to provide more truth to the story the scammer is telling you. But you shouldn't click on those links either. Again, if the email is from a vlad, it might install something on your computer you don't want.

In short, NEVER open an attachment sent with a scam email, and never click on the links in a scam email

The Doctor

Staff member
Are you guys the police?

No, we are not the police. We are not N.S.Y. We are not M. I. 5. We are not the C.I.A. or the F.B.I. We are not related to or a part of any law enforcement agency. AFI is not a law enforcement group of any kind. Individual members of this site may be law enforcement officers, but they are here in a private capacity.

However, as we have worked against internet fraud, we have developed contact with law enforcement agencies, and we do work with them. We do sometimes provide information to them. If there is any information we can use against a scammer, that information can and will be used against them.

Gentle Giant

Giant Admin for a Day
Staff member
OK, so who are you guys then, anyway?

To paraphrase Popeye, (famous cartoon character) "We are who we are". We are an international group of net citizens (netizens) who have gathered in one place to do something we like and something we think is necessary: to inform and alert the general (world) public about internet scamming.

Each of us brings to the table the talents that he or she has and the experience that each of us has in fighting against fraud. Some people are old hands at it, some are new. Each of us is a volunteer and we give of our time to help you. (Some of us also give our money as well).

Why do we do this? Why do we care? Well, that's more difficult to answer because each of us has our own reasons for being here. For some of us who might have served in our national military or law enforcement, each of us took an oath to basically "protect and defend" others, those who could not protect and defend themselves. When it comes to scamming, we are here to protect and defend you as best we can, given the abilities and also the limitations of cyberspace.

If this is your first experience with internet fraud, then welcome. You can read here and learn more about it. In turn, this makes you a more valuable asset among your friends and community because you can then pass on the information you learned and help inform others, who in turn will tell others, we hope, who in turn will tell others, etc. until such time as internet fraud becomes a thing of the past.

Spanish Admin

THE Spanish Administrator
Staff member
Could a scammer join AFI?

Yes they could. They could also be removed, which is what would most likely happen to them. This is a public forum but scammers are not welcome. Our job as admins is to keep this site safe for users who are are welcome, not to keep it safe for scammers.

Why would then join?
Simply, they want to see what we are saying about them. They want to see if there are any documents they could steal from us. That's why we mark everything with "fake" and put a watermark background on them. They might even want a chance to justify themselves. They won't get any freebies here.

The Doctor

Staff member
The scammer sent a phone number. Could you find the scammer?

That depends on the kind of phone number, but generally, no, you can't find them with a phone number. If you have a country code (which will be the first part of the number) and you aren't sure where that country is, you can check here: They are in alphabetical order by country so you may have spend a minute searching for the country code.

If the number they gave you is a fixed landline, the number could tell you where the scammer is, but the chances are that it is a phone booth or an internet cafe. Also, the scammers love call-forwarding because you can dial a phone number in one country but it actually rings in another.

Landlines are very difficult to get in many countries which is why the mobile phone revolution has been a blessing and a curse. If a scammer has a mobile phone, other than telling you what country he is probably in, that's about as far as it's going to go. The phone may have been paid for by a different person, and in any case, you'd have to rely on local police to do something about the scammer and, well...that just isn't likely to happen.

If the number is in the North American/Caribbean area (country code 1) with a number such as + 1-000-000-0000, then it is possible that they are in that region (US, Canada, etc). There are some cases where a scammer might get a US number that actually redirects the call to a different country, but that seems to be pretty rare. If you get a country code of +44, that is for the UK. Several companies in the UK (and elsewhere) offer what are sometimes called "follow-me" numbers which can follow the scammer anywhere in the world. Literally. If you get a phone or fax number that starts with + 44 701, +44 702, etc., or +44 870, it is very likely the scammer is NOT in the UK.

The phone number is interesting, and we can enter it in the database as a scammer's phone number, but beyond that, it doesn't provide a lot in the way of useful information.

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
Is my personal information safe here?

If you are a registered member, your personal details are as safe as we can possibly make them. The only people who can see any of the information you enter when you join are admins.

Of course there are other things you can do to protect yourself. One of them is to never join this or any other website using any part of your real name. You'd be suprised how easily you can be traced.

Another is to never use your real picture in your avatar. Tempting as that may be, just don't do it.

You can also choose not to receive Private Messages from other members (in User CP if you want to change it). You can choose not to receive email from other members.

If you post an email because you wonder if its a scam, please remove your personal email address before you post it.

And never give any of your real personal information here like address or phone number, because we'll delete it as soon as we see it. But you don't want the search engine spiders to find it before we do.

We do work hard to make this as safe a place as possible. Help us keep you safe by keeping yourself safe.

Gentle Giant

Giant Admin for a Day
Staff member
I received an email warning me and directing me to this site.

If you received such an email, you might be wondering if it's real. If you did get an email warning you about a possible scam and it directed you to this or another anti-scam website, then it's real.

Anti-fraud and anti-scam websites do sometimes get information about people who might become potential targets of an internet scammer. Such sites, including AFI, do have such warning systems in place. The purpose of the email you received is to alert you to the fact that you are not dealing with who you may think you are dealing with (cancer victim, lottery, etc). It is also designed to direct you to a website such as AFI where you may find out more information about such scams.

You should note that sometimes scammers will try and impersonate people from such websites, but there is one way to tell a genuine e-mail from a scammer pretending to be from AFI: AFI never asks anyone for money in any way, shape or form. If the person does ask for money, it's not really from us.

The warning is real and the message is what we would like for everyone: to stay safe on the internet. Please take a genuine email warning message to heart.
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