The scam, and the scamming minority.
The 419 fraud deals with a unknown person contacting you about a large sum of money. This mythical money can be from a lottery you won, a perfectly legal source or illegally gotten money that needs to be laundered.
The money is gotten from its victims, by an ever-increasing amount of fees, charges or penalties. Needless to say if you give sensitive financial information to a fraudster, this would be another way to lose money.
A good rule of thumb is if someone you don't know is offering you cash for something you have no idea about. The chances are VERY good it is a con. No offer like this, no matter what country they come from should be consider valid.
Consider 419 fraudsters also align themselves with others to commit the fraud. Corrupt British business men have been recruited to take part in 419 frauds(1 ).
In Nigeria the 419 fraud can be run by crime syndicates, west African crime syndicates operate in 80 countries. along with the 419 fraud they also make money in drug smuggling and human trafficking (2 ).
South African police said about organized crime in their country, "Domestic organised crime groups are involved in virtually every area of criminal activity engaged in by transnational groups, from drug trafficking to fraud, from the trade in humans to the 419 scams. In some cases they work co-operatively with transnational groups, such as the involvement of local groups with Pakistani drug traffickers, while others work on their own." (3 ).
Research by United States Agency for International Development noted West African organized crime syndicates were involved in human trafficking and said "Black and coloured girls, aged between 18 and 21, are being lured from their homes mainly for prostitution, but also to be used as cheap domestic labour,"(4 ).