419 Advance Fee Fraud Statistics 2013

Next to Nigeria there are "419 fraud" cells in nearly every country on earth. Benin, the UK, South Africa, and Spain are heavily infested. 419er operations are on the up-tick in China (both mainland China and Hong Kong), India and in Malaysia. There are 419er cells in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, Pakistan, and the Czech Republic. These days, about the only place on earth without 419 cells is Antarctica - for now, anyway.

Smart People Easier To Scam

- High-achieving professionals are the most likely to be defrauded 

419 Advance Fee Fraud

- Money For Free Is Big Business

- The World Most Successful Scam

Highest Losses

- Over 82 billion US$ to date, 12.7 billion in 2013

Highest Number of Organized Perpetrators

- Over 800,000 globally. Growing 5% per annum, faster than ever!

In Nigeria: Too Many to Count!

Highest Number of Victims

- Millions of people have incurred a loss to 419 Advance Fee Fraud

Centralized counter-419 operations

- Reporting must be kept as simple for the public as possible, to encourage maximum reports

419 Advance Fee Fraud moving to the east!

- Asia falling prey to new and classic Advance Fee Frauds

Money transfer agents conduits to rip people off

- A significant number of money transfer agencies are operated by criminal organizations

Rhizomatic dynamics

- The roots of E- Cyber Crime networks

2. Victims categorized

2.1. Small loss

In general these have fallen for one of the many quick scams, examples are: lottery fraud, the job- study place visa -offer, inheritance scam or the relief fund scam.

The total losses per victim vary between 200 and 30000 dollar over a period of a couple of months to half a year.

2.2. Medium loss

In general these victims have fallen for the request for help to move and/or invest millions. More recent victims were offered substantial low interest loan for which they have to pay all types of advance fees.

The total losses per victim vary from 15000 to 210000 dollar over a period of a year to one and a half year.

2.3. High loss

In general these victims enjoyed a high education and have been introduced to "the original 419 Advance Fee Scam" which has evolved in the past 25 years to what it became now. A fraudulent proposal based on a REAL business of multinational proportions (oil, gold, diamonds, medical equipment, vaccines, chemicals, investments, building and/or service contracts), very often the business at hand relates to the business of the victim or business-contacts of the victim and the victim is required to show genuine possibilities and experience to import or export goods and/or services before the first Advance Fees are generated.

The losses are not limited to the Advanced Fees which end up in the pockets of the scam organization.

These variations of the 419 scam have in a majority of the cases a fall out to all the other business and private connections of the victim who are unaware brought in to the scam by the innocent victim. Very often the victim and his associates have to invest in: costly preparations - start up real production - pay real subcontractors - to facilitate 'the business' with the scammers and this leads to a snowball effect of damages which have included serious downsizing and bankruptcies of the companies involved. Damages are not limited to private persons or their enterprises, public companies just "feel a higher need" for hiding (translating) the consequences for their share holders.

The total losses per case, vary from 300 thousand to 12 million dollar over a period of one and a half to 8 years or longer, but we are aware of cases with higher damages. Cases with damages between half a million and a million dollar are quite common.

2.4. All victims

Sustain emotional damages and when scammed for a longer period they appear to have a "connection" with their scammers which can be compared to the Stockholm-Syndrome. When this occurs it very often proves difficult to convince victims of the fact that they are the victim of a common but none the less elaborate advance fee scam. In many cases victims immediately contact their "trusted" scam contacts to discuss the problem they have with the people who have warned them for the scam, and the scam organization is equipped with all the fake detectives, FBI, Interpol and Secret Service agents or other fake officials necessary to gain control over the victim again 

Advance Fee Fraud alert smart people easier to scam

3. Smart people easier to scam

Research on e-mail scams indicates that the high-achieving professionals are frequently defrauded, contrary to the widely held belief that the poorly educated and financially desperate are most vulnerable.

3.1. For the Bigger Scams Victims Need to Trust their own Capabilities and Experience

High-achieving professionals are the most likely to be defrauded, while the poor are harder to trick as they do not trust their own judgment. Doctors are especially vulnerable to scams that encourage them to do good. They often fall for a scam that starts with a request to help the less fortunate. "You need the victims to trust their own capabilities and experience." Our research, also shows a strong correlation between being conned and a family trauma. Among people who lose more than 150,000 pound to e- mail fraudsters, there is an 85% chance of a recent, parent-related event such as death or acrimonious separation impairing their judgment.

Doctors, architects, engineers and other white-collar professionals are being conned by e-mail fraudsters who lure them into contributing to fake ventures after taking their details from conference websites.

3.1.1. Child-Parent Trauma

Research, showed a strong correlation between white-collar victims and a recent or life-changing family trauma, which appeared to have impaired their judgment. 

A review of 362 of the most serious cases, in which victims lost more than 150,000 pound, found that 85 per cent had suffered a parent-related trauma's either death or an acrimonious separation.

The report concludes that those who have suffered a bereavement appear to be more likely to be duped.

One victim, whose father died in a car accident when he was 12, has lost more than $ 500,000 (250,000 pound) over seven years despite having the intelligence to gain a doctorate and help to run his family's business. The victim continued to believe that the fraudsters were genuine.

The poorly educated or financially inexperienced people are not so desirable to scammers because they did not trust their own judgment and soon realised that they had been duped.

Doctors are especially vulnerable to scams that encouraged them to do good. They very often fall for a scam that starts with a request to help the less fortunate in the world through good causes. To perpetrate the bigger scams you need the victims to trust their own capabilities and experience.

A significant number of high-loss cases involved specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists and neurosurgeons.

The 308 victims who said they had suffered child-parent trauma included two police commissioners of large cities, respected entrepreneurs and 17 directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.

3.2. Case Study of a High Loss Victim of Nigerian 419 Fraud

John, a PhD graduate who has run his family's wine business, first fell victim to a scam in 2001. Seven years and more than $500,000 later he is still sending money to fraudsters in the hope that one more payment will release the long-promised rewards. 

The 55-year-old man, from the west coast of America, witnessed his father die in a car accident at a young age, a traumatic event similar to the majority of highly educated scam victims. 

His ordeal began in 2001 with an e-mail offering him a trunk of money filled with dyed banknotes. The socalled "wash wash" scam, which was first developed by Nigerian fraudsters in the 1970s, involves a suitcase filled with worthless black paper, which the scammers claim are dollar bills stained to avoid detection by customs officials. 

The victim, who sees a demonstration of bills apparently being washed clean, buys the trunk and then purchases "chemicals" that supposedly remove the dye. John agreed to pay a series of imaginary fees ranging from $300 to $10,000. He would hand over more cash no matter how outlandish the reason because he believed that the next payment would be the last. 

One fee he paid was ostensibly to get a holy man to lift a curse that had been placed on a consignment held in customs. "My cousin is completely conditioned," John's cousin said. "He really had his soul corrupted and ruined by interaction with these people." The victim has stolen money from his mother's retirement fund and used his cousin's bank account to accept fraudulent payments.

He ignores any advice, even from fraud experts who tell him to stop all communications with the scammers because that he is participating in well-documented scams, because he cannot accept his mistakes. "He believes that one of these days he is going to prove to everybody that he was right all along, and that we are idiots. The idea of making amends (for involving his family in fraud) is overwhelming to him. He would rather he is right, so he could have his self-esteem back."

3.2.1. When a Guy hits the JACKPOT

As for the Nigerian fraudsters who solicited John s help in 2001 and many other actors that got involved during the intermezzo s, once John became their Mugu or Maga they hit the JACKPOT! 

High Loss victims like John are the rewards, portrayed by their very rich and in their city acclaimed (mentor) Oga, that every scammer hopes for from the very day they start with sending scam proposals to thousands of foreigners and become a Yahoo Boy or Guy. As long as John and many others continue to respond, the scammers will stay in business as they are always one step ahead, prepared to counter any logical reasoning and another legitimate reason to advance fees.

Advance Fee Fraud statistics
Advance Fee Fraud statistics

4. The AFF statistics by the 419unit@ultrascan-agi.com

4.1. What is different with our numbers?

- We monitor and investigate what 419 AFF scammers plan and do. We do not wait for victims to file a complaint. Many victims do not report the crime at all, as it is often the biggest mistake of their lives. 

- The numbers are based on our investigations from 1996 till now, but mainly recent from March 2003 to December 31 2013.

The information that we collect and analyse:

- Scam proposals via internet, fax and phone through our robots for reception and response in 69 countries. (POR69)

- Complaints of victims that contact the 419 Unit for assistance.

- Communications from perpetrators with victims and plotting of perpetrators with perpetrators. A small number of Police reports and court decisions.

- More than 85,202 scammers, outside Nigeria and excluding money mules, have been identified since March 2003, of which 22,669 have been monitored and reported to the authorities in the countries where they were residing.

-Nigeria: Too Many to Count!

The 419 Unit of Ultrascan-AGI is not an official reporting centre however in 2013 we did review 9274* complaints (in 2007 - 17475 / in 2009 - 8503) concerning Nigerian 419 advance fee fraud coming from 152* countries (in 2007-161 / in 2009-152):

- Our estimates are based on our records analysed and prepared by 419 AFF experts.

- We investigate and follow volatility and trends of AFF.

- Profile fraud victims - perpetrators, their Modus Operandi and map their locations.

4.2. What is not different with our numbers?

- Nigeria: Too Many to Count!

- Our numbers do not show the complete AFF situation in the world, not even in one specific country.

- Our estimates are low, and for some countries probably extremely low. (We will not give estimates if we have no records of our own) 

- We have substantial evidence that 82% of the lottery scams and 78% of check fraud are Nigerian AFF related. 72% of counterfeit checks that were found during transport were in possession of a Nigerian. 

Most counterfeit checks were produced in Nigeria, Canada and India of which a significant number under control of Nigerian AFF.

4.3. What IS 419 Advance Fee Fraud and what IS NOT ?

Outside Nigeria the number 419 only refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, nothing more than that!

Nigerians, especially, use the term 419 as a generic term to cover all types of fraud, misfeasance, malfeasance, cheating, embezzlement, misrepresentation, anything that is not on the Up and Up. If an Oga has promised his girlfriend an Audi, but she only gets a Hyundai, she has been 419ed. If a job seeker overstates his resume, he is trying to 419 his potential employer. If a politician embezzles the appropriation for a new power plant, he has 419ed his constituents. The term 419 has become a part of the popular culture, used as shorthand for all types of something is not quite right.

Lots of other folks use the term 419 for various things as well. Some think that 419 is when a criminal reaches into their bank account and steals their money. Some think that 419 is when they are sold worthless stocks or bonds. Some think that when they buy an ostensibly real Armani suit on an auction site, and it turns out to have been made in Hong Kong yesterday, that they have been 419ed. 

While it is indeed true that all of the Nigerians and others mentioned above have indeed been somehow cheated or defrauded, None of them have indeed been 419ed. 

419 is Advance Fee Fraud with a West African (primarily Nigerian) connection. If a crime is not Advance Fee Fraud, it is not 419. If a crime is indeed Advance Fee Fraud, but there is no West African (primarily Nigerian) connection it is not 419. To be 419, a crime must be both Advance Fee Fraud AND have a West African (primarily Nigerian) connection.

West African (primarily Nigerian) connections that make a given case of Advance Fee Fraud 419 may include, among other things: Use of Nigerian or other West African telephone numbers in Advance Fee Fraud correspondence; Use of Nigerian or other West African IP originations in Advance Fee Fraud correspondence; West African or Nigerian citizens or expatriate participation in Advance Fee Fraud operations, no matter the physical location of the scammer (he may be in London or Madrid and using UK or Spanish phone numbers for example) ; and anything else that indicates a West African (primarily Nigerian) active participation in, or connection to, a given Advance Fee Fraud operation.

Graft is not 419 (it is not Advance Fee Fraud). Phishing is not 419 (it is not Advance Fee Fraud). Stock fraud is not generally 419 (it is not Advance Fee Fraud). Embezzlement is not 419 (it is not Advance Fee Fraud). Counterfeiting goods is not 419 (it is not Advance Fee Fraud). To even have a chance of being 419, a crime has to be Advance Fee Fraud FIRST.

Now, Lottery Fraud is indeed generally Advance Fee Fraud. But if it has no West African (primarily Nigerian) connection, it is not 419. The same thing applies to online auction Advance Fee Fraud, if no West African (primarily Nigerian) connection it is not 419. Same thing applies to Romance Advance Fee Fraud; Employment Advance Fee Fraud; Real Estate Advance Fee Fraud, and all the other infinite forms of Advance Fee Fraud. If there is no West African (primarily Nigerian) connection to a given Advance Fee Fraud scenario or operation, it is NOT 419.

So, the next time someone says something is, or is not, 419 ask yourself the following two questions:

- Are we discussing a case of Advance Fee Fraud? If so, it Might be 419. if not, it is not.

- If it is a case of Advance Fee Fraud, is there a West African (primarily Nigerian) connection? If so, it is 419.  if not, it is not.

The Transnational Nature of Nigerian 419 AFF Scams

5.1. In Nigeria there are too many to count, but are Nigerian 419 fraudsters everywhere?

Some people believe that wherever they are and whatever they do, they are being watched by their enemies. They believe everyone is plotting against them and that nowhere is safe. They trust no-one. These are symptoms of a serious mental illness known as Paranoia. Unless, of course, it is True.

5.2. Which it is in terms of 419. The 419ers are Everywhere.

There are 419 cells in nearly every country on earth. There are too many cells in Nigeria to count. Benin, the UK, South Africa, and Spain are heavily infested. 419er operations are on the uptick in China (both mainland China and Hong Kong), and in Malaysia. There are 419er cells in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the Czech Republic. These days, about the only place on earth without 419 cells is Antarctica - for now, anyway

5.3. Why is this? Why are the 419ers everywhere? How did this happen?

No-one knows for sure, but over the years a variety of contributing factors have been speculatively mentioned by those who study the issue. A few of these are: 

- *The tremendous success over the years of 419ers operating from Nigeria has made many targets leery of anything to do with Nigeria. In Nigeria there are Too Many to Count! So the more successful 419 syndicates felt their success rate would be higher by operating from branch offices in other countries as well as from their home office in Nigeria.

*Many, many Nigerians have left and continue to leave Nigeria to work and live elsewhere. So many that in fact the Nigerians themselves call this phenomenon The Diaspora – and many 419ers are no different than anyone else, they want out too. Of course they have to make a living when they get to wherever they go - so they continue to do what they know best.

*For many years, the Nigerian telecommunications system simply did not have the capacity to keep up with the growing needs of the 419 syndicates, so they sent cells out to countries with better telecommunications infrastructure. And these cells spawned other cells, and so on.

*Many 419ers, especially the more successful ones, prefer to keep the bulk of their money outside of the Nigerian banking system , and indeed out of Nigeria itself, in First World banks, and in First World currencies rather than Nigerian currency, the Naira. Seems they don not trust their own banks. And they like to have cells where their money is so they can watch it and do transactions locally as necessary.

*419er cells tend to target victims in countries other than the one from which they are based. 419er cells in Nigeria generally do not target Nigerians. 419er cells operating from the UK tend not to target Brits. 419 cells operating from Spain tend not to target the Spanish. This tends to keep the local heat off 419er cells, since the victims are elsewhere so no complaints are being filed with the local authorities by irate local citizens. And this creates a quagmire of jurisdictional, protocol, communications, and other issues for the authorities in the many different countries where there are complaints being filed against a given 419er cell - that they can not physically get at. So the more cells in more places, the better.

5.4. So sometimes a little paranoia can be a good thing

In short, 419 is one of the longest running, most successful, omnipresent, trans-national, mass marketing campaigns in history. The 419er home offices remain in the relatively safe haven of Nigeria, but like any other international conglomerate they set up local branches in many nations. These branches set up more branches, and so on, in almost a multi-level-marketing business model.

So, are the 419ers among us everywhere in true transnational fashion? Are they actively plotting to defraud everyone they can?

Yes, it is true.
So sometimes a little paranoia can be a good thing.


Subsidiaries of international research organization with over 3280 experts in 69 countries
"We have the tools and resources. Managed appropriately we effectively monitor with impact assessments in place"


Ultrascan Financial Intelligence Unit A mixture of intelligence gathering, investigations, reputational risk mitigation and Innovative Technology in line of objectives. Focused on external information and stakeholder engagement, to detect exposure to financial crime risk.

Ultrascan Humint

Ultrascan HUMINT have extensive experience with identifying, locating, mapping, monitoring, analysing and predicting perpetrators of money laundering and the planning, funding, communications and support of terrorism.

Ultrascan KPO - Knowledge Process Outsourcing

Ultrascan KPO working with governments on the path of reform, providing support on areas of governance and implementation. We provide geopolitical and strategic advice to multinationals and institutional investors with investment opportunities.

Ultrascan Research BRAINS

Ultrascan Intelligence and Analysis BRAINS. Wander Around in our Detailed Global Interactive Research - Criminal and financial relationships visualized - Non-linear - networks of knowledge like you've never seen before - AML KYC FIU - Innovative Technology

Ultrascan Researsch Services

Amsterdam, Paris, Abuja