The History of Nigerian Facebook Scams
The Nigerian Facebook scams we see today have their origins back in the early days of the internet during the 1990s, when scammers would send thousands of spam emails asking for cash. We’re all familiar with the old Nigerian Prince scheme, in which fraudsters would email victims pretending to be a rich Nigerian, promising vast sums of cash for anyone that handed over their financial details.
Operations have become a little more sophisticated since then, and have evolved into a range of Nigerian Facebook scams. These crimes are known as 419 frauds, named after the Nigerian penal code section that deals with such offenses. It’s estimated that more than 50% of these types of scams the world over now originate in the country.
How do Nigerian Scammers on Facebook Operate?
The scammers still utilize some of the spam tactics of the old days, often sending out thousands of messages per day in order to ensnare their victims. Those most often targeted these days tend to be vulnerable groups such as lonely hearts looking for romance and people that have lost loved ones, or appealing to people’s greed by promising free money.
Nigerian scammers on Facebook will even stoop to impersonating trusted friends and loved ones from your contact list in an effort to increase the chances of success. Fraudsters will try to work their way into your trust, commenting on posts, building a relationship, and attempting to connect with mutual friends to add legitimacy.
Nigerian citizens are well connected, and its growing telecoms industry now has more than 100 million people online. Coupled with fluency in English, it’s incredibly easy for a group of criminals to set up a Facebook scamming operation. As soon as the government cracks down on one, two more pop up to take its place.
Common Nigerian Scams on Facebook
Nigerian Military Scams
Nigerian military scams are one of the most common types of fraud on Facebook. Here, perpetrators will steal photographs of genuine members of the US military, using them to set up a fake profile. They’ll then trawl groups and profiles looking for anyone with a connection to the armed forces, or those looking for love, before sending a message or commenting on posts.
After building up a level of trust with the victim, the fraudster will then start to make requests for money to be sent via wire transfer. These will usually start small so as not to arouse suspicion, and will be for items like new pieces of equipment or a credit card for off-base expenses.
The scam slowly builds until larger and larger sums are requested, purported to be for medical bills or travel costs, but of course, it’s all a sham. Typical targets will be lonely women in their late 30s to late 70s.
Nigerian Romance Scams
Romance scams often go hand in hand with the aforementioned military scam but cover a much broader target market. Scammers will leave comments, or message Facebook users out of the blue, honing in on those with single relationship status. The scam has elements of a honey trap, as beautiful women will pretend to be attracted to young men, claiming they want a relationship.
Many use fake or stolen pictures and will send hundreds of friend requests per day in the hopes that users are drawn in by a pretty face. Then, once accepted, the fraudsters will use the same sort of begging tactics of other scams, claiming they need funds transferred for various expenses, always dangling the chance of a meeting to keep victims interested.
An evolved form of the old email scam, the classic inheritance scam is still with us, and people are still falling victim to it. In this Nigerian Facebook scam, elderly and lonely victims are often the intended targets and will be sent messages claiming to be holding on to an inheritance. All the victim needs to do is send a ‘verification payment’ and the full funds will be released.
Scammers are getting a little more sophisticated these days and are setting up fake profiles of family members of the intended victim in order to extract funds. Elderly Facebook users might be less likely to be suspicious if they see a message from a supposed family member claiming they have an inheritance due, and may not do any digging.
The Friend In Need Scam
This is one of the newer Nigerian scams on FB and involves the perpetrator setting up a dummy account from a victim’s friends list. This includes copying pictures and posts to make them look legitimate. The scammer then emails their ‘friend’ claiming they’ve got in some financial hot water and need bailing out.
The fraudsters work to script and often look for people on vacation, with a common claim being they were robbed in a foreign country and need their friend to bail them out. The best way to deal with this type of scam is to make your account completely private.
In a step up from the romance scam, malicious parties are now drawing victims into compromising situations via Facebook. While users think they might have found a new long distance love interest via Facebook, they’ll instead be tricked into adult video messaging chats that will be recorded by the scammer.
The victim will then be threatened with exposure to their friends and family unless they pay up. This particularly vicious scam has seen a sharp rise in recent years and is definitely one to watch out for.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Facebook Scams from Nigeria?
- Never send money to those you haven’t met in person – While this seems like obvious advice, you’d be surprised at just how manipulative scammers can be and how often people will do this
- Change your privacy settings – Make sure your Facebook account is completely private, and is set up to block anyone outside of your friend group from commenting or messaging
- Watch out for spelling and grammar issues – These are usually a sure sign something is wrong, and you should be especially suspicious of poor spelling on accounts that claim to be from people you know
- Someone wants to take the conversation off Facebook – This is another major red flag. Never contact someone outside of the platform unless you’re 100% sure of their identity
- Never accept friend requests from people you don’t know – This is probably the most sensible advice to stay safe. If the scammers can’t contact you, they can’t con you
However, no matter how many measures you take to protect yourself, there’s always a chance you’ll fall victim to a Nigerian Facebook scam. It’s certainly possible to get your money back and, at PayBack, our experts have years of experience in hunting down perpetrators and recovering funds that have been lost to fraud. If you’ve sent cash via wire transfer, there’s a chance we can recover your stolen money via chargeback, but we’ll leave no stone unturned during our investigation to ensure justice is served.