It would be a challenge to find someone who has not heard of the now-infamous “Nigerian Prince scams,” also known as “419 scams” and “advance-fee scams.” The concept itself dates back to the French Revolution, but it has come a long way due to human gullibility. More recently, it has taken to the internet to deceive scores of email recipients hoping for a big payday.
Online scams in this category involve the victim receiving emails that promise a large sum of money in exchange for taking supposed business actions that the sender requires. According to the scammers, the money is usually stuck in some offshore account and you are promised a considerable part of it if you are willing to help the individual pay a “small fee” to release it from the bank.
Lately, while shuffling through some emails, I personally stumbled upon what I thought was the same type of scam. However, after playing along to an extent, I came to learn that online scams originating from Nigeria have evolved. While some stick with the old rich prince ploy, others have devised more elaborate schemes to secure money. If you’re thinking cryptocurrency might be involved, then you’re right on the money.
A Romance Scam Grooms Potential Victims
It all started on a dating app. I matched with a profile that appeared to be legitimate. Unlike other fake profiles that are obvious to spot, this person’s pictures looked like an honest user’s might. The profile description was detailed and pertinent to the geographical location where the person claimed to live. To add an extra layer of authenticity, the person even called me on the phone to help gain my trust.
Although things seemed fine at first, there were some early signs that gave them away: being suspiciously eager to have frequent phone calls from the start, messaging in the early hours of the morning, using WhatsApp instead of SMS and having little contextual understanding of the city where they claimed to live.
Now feeling suspicious, I wanted to at least find out where this person was located. Since they claimed to have an MBA and be an expert in investments, I created a fake real estate listing on a page designed to track their IP and asked them if they thought the house in my link would be a good investment. They took the bait and the results showed me that they were operating from an IP address in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Plot Thickens
After establishing that this was indeed a scam and the person was lying about their true whereabouts, I wanted to know their end goal. The individual I was speaking with claimed to run a cosmetics business and deal in bitcoin investments to supplement their income. The mention of bitcoin piqued my interest.
After some initial pleasantries, they started to unravel their scam, claiming that they made $9,000 with an initial investment of $5,000. They proceeded to send me a series of videos of people claiming to have made large sums of money by investing in bitcoin as well. I…