You probably know the story. Some formal, official-sounding correspondance arrives in your inbox from a Nigerian lawyer. You have inherited a lot of money, you won a lottery, or are being asked to help some rich widow move her money to America in exchange for a piece of the action. The money will be directly wired into your bank account as soon as you reply and provide that account information. (There is another version of this scam I have encountered more than once where the scammer calls a business through an Internet-to-voice company and tries to purchase an item like a cell phone using bad bank accounts or credit cards.)
Perhaps the most amazing thing about these scams is that there are apparently plenty of suckers in our midst! People are duped by the promise of instant wealth. In the words of Dire Straits, they think they can get money for nothing and chicks for free. Clark Howard tells us that the scams are big business in Nigeria. There are apparently entire Internet cafes (called 419 cafes) set up to facilitate these scams. The perpetrators allegedly don’t see anything wrong with their actions (talk about rationalizing and moral equivalence!) and some even believe that the Americans they scam deserve what they get for being so greedy and dumb.