Advance Fee Fraud, Advanced Fee Fraud … or 419 Scams, or simply Scams?

Advance Fee Fraud, Advanced Fee Fraud … or 419 Scams, or simply Scams?

Is it Advance Fee Fraud or Advanced Fee Fraud? Or 419 Scams, or simply Scams?

Of late the meanings of these phrases are getting lost and causing confusion.

419 Scam was originally intended to refer to fraud originating from Nigerian actors violating section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code. These are also commonly called Nigerian Scams or 419 Fraud.

Advance Fee Fraud is a type of fraud in which businesses or individuals are required to pay a fee before receiving some promised offer or advantage. The general definition pre-dates 419 scams/fraud and is generally non-geographic: says:

Advance fee fraud has existed in various forms since at least the 18th century, though the modern concept dates to the 1920s. In the 1980s, advance fee fraud became closely associated with African-based criminal groups, Nigerian criminal enterprises in particular. It was sometimes called 419 fraud, after the relevant section of the Nigerian criminal code. The 419 fraud scheme was a variation of the confidence swindle, which preys on peoples’ greed and naïveté.

Scam has many meanings. In common usage it can mean anything from paying too much for an item, receiving an inferior item, or being defrauded. An interesting attempt at minimizing consumer losses vs bank’s responsibilities was seen in the UK banking industry, leading to private joke: “Scam a bank and it’s fraud. Defraud a consumer and it’s a scam”.  

Wikipedia’s Talk:Advance-fee scam shows the total chaos in the consumer mind, attempts at political correctness and how it creates general confusion:

Advanced Fee Fraud is pretty much a mish-mash to refer to 419 Fraud. Early sightings:, along with the term Nigerian 419.

Nigerian Scam is a later attempt at separating scam types and to define 419 Fraud from general Advance Fee Fraud. Even a bit later the confusion is once again solidified by considering Nigerian Scam, 419 Fraud and Advance Fee Fraud to be synonyms. Since all cats are animals, it does not mean all animals are cats. 419 Fraud is but one form of Advance Fee Fraud.

419 Scam vs 419 Fraud are used interchangeably. It refers to the Nigerian form of consumer facing cybercrime and derivatives. Artists Against 419 has standardized on 419 Fraud as to distance it from scam which may or may not be illegal. The word scam is somewhat hijacked and a weak term to describe something that’s both fraud and illegal internationally.

Sakawa normally signifies a special zealot type form of Advance Fee Fraud typically associated with black magic and blessing to defraud a good victim. It’s closely related to 419 Fraud and originates from it. However a mere Ghanaian IP address is not enough to define it as either Sakawa or not. Many of the 419 Fraud from Ghana originates from Nigerian citizens in the country. This does not mean all attribution will be Nigerian either as many Ghanaian nationals do partake in 419 Fraud on steroids, Sakawa. Ivory Coast sees the same challenges, likewise many West African countries all the way through to Mororcco. Since we are unable to definitively distinguish in general, we refer to 419 Fraud to be 419-type scams emanating from West Africa.

Benin deserves a special mention. We have been monitoring rather unique EU targeting consumer loan scams emanating from Benin. Typically these scams are primarily in French, with translations available for other languages via Google translate. Canada is a secondary target.

Another major area of confusion is spoofing, as we find in 419 Fraud, which is seen as phishing. We explain the difference in our post Phishing Sites vs Fake 419 Banks.

Yet these concepts and are important if we are to get it right. To stop abuse, we need to understand what we’re talking about and how to protect against it..

Advance Fee Fraud
Advance Fee Fraud vs fraud types

Artists Against 419 uses the term Advanced Fee Fraud as originally defined, although in a cyber fraud environment, to signify internationally illegal fraud requiring some form of fee in advance.

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