In Nigeria, many people, both literate and illiterate, refer though correctly, to the crime of scam as 419 without knowing the origin of it. The term '419' is used in that regard because of the Nigeria Criminal Code where section 419 deals with Advance Fee Fraud. Thus, it is the section that deals with scams in the code that became used to refer to the crime
Section 419 of the Criminal Code states that, " Any person who by any false pretense and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years". It further states that if the thing is of value of up to one thousand naira or more, the person is liable to imprisonment for up to seven years.
The question now is, what is '419'? It is a crime perpetrated in Nigeria in which a letter, fax, or email is sent to someone in a foreign country ( usually in Europe or the United States). The person who receives the mail is informed that he or she could receive a significant sum for 'helping' someone to get funds out of Nigeria. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the originator of the mail such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information. These information are then exploited to get money from the unsuspecting foreigner. Most times, the recipients are asked to send money for preliminary expenses with the promise that they would be handsomely rewarded once the deal has succeeded. By the time the hoax is discovered, the victim must have parted with enormous amount of money. However, it is imperative to note that perpetrators of the act succeed when they contact people who have a proclivity towards, or a willingness to indulge in larceny.
419 crime is not good. For Nigerians who a caught abroad, tried and jailed for such offences it brings dent to the international reputation of the country. It is bad enough when law abiding citizens who do honest businesses are denied opportunities by foreigners on the ground that they could have 419 blood running on their veins.
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