I know that a significant part of Nigerian scammers are indeed working from Nigeria. A scam starts with exchanging messages. Physical contact is not to be expected. It is widely known that scammer often say they are from Nigeria, so often so that the country's name is burned for this purpose. That must be known in Nigeria, at least to scammers.

I would expect that a scammer would pretend to be from a different country. It would make it harder to "prove" that he is indeed from that country. He is in control of the conversation and has many chances to prevent the proof or fake it.

Some of the scammers may be elsewhere and pretend to be in Nigeria only. But "Nigeria" is burned for him also.

So, what prevents a Nigerian scammer from not disclosing the country he works from?

  • 21
    Out of curiosity, do you have any sources that back up your claim that "a significant part of Nigerian scammers are indeed working from Nigeria"? As David mentioned in his answer, this claim from the scammers that they are from Nigeria is a part of an act. So it's just as likely that the scammers are from somewhere else. – Kodos Johnson Sep 19 at 0:47
  • @KodosJohnson I do only vaguely remember my source. It was about work in Nigeria, reported from Nigeria - and the work was often the scam. So it may be less than I remember, but still significant. – Volker Siegel Sep 19 at 1:12
  • 2
    @Cloud It's hard to say whether that's joking or not, because I'm German. And I'm not interested in manual scamming, automated scamming or use of machine learning to create better automated scamming methods. Do you imply that ethical considerations are relevant to this question? I could be interested in automated recognition of automated scamming use, right? All of them are off topic. – Volker Siegel Sep 19 at 16:04
  • 1
    There are legitimate businesses that operate in Nigeria. All I can say is tread carefully, double check, and verify everything. – Chloe Sep 21 at 15:02
  • @Chloe No doubts; I remember that the scammers were working from internet cafes. – Volker Siegel Sep 21 at 15:18

They say "Nigerian" because the savvy ones ignore it. So any answers must be from lower risk victims who are more likely to send the money.

  • 158
    telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/9346371/… includes links to a Microsoft research paper with exactly this conclusion - "by sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select" – AakashM Sep 18 at 7:43
  • 64
    Wow, that's actually genius.. and sad that it's actually effective. – Chris Cirefice Sep 18 at 19:29
  • 30
    The idea is this: they send a bajillion spam messages out, and will only get money from a tiny percentage of the most gullible, and will have to deal with each response individually. So it makes perfect sense they will screen out all the not-so-gullible as quickly as possible so they won't have to deal with people who won't in the end send them money. – Jeffiekins Sep 18 at 20:19
  • 32
    Same principle as this earlier question we had where the scammer claimed to be from "the west coast of Austria" (Austria is land-locked). Filters out savvy, attentive people who will not go all the way. – user568458 Sep 19 at 9:56
  • 17
    It's implied, but this also explains why the grammar and spelling is often incorrect. – BruceWayne Sep 19 at 16:09

There are different types of scams. If you browse through the scam tags, you will find some very sophisticated scams that have quite a bit of hardware as well as people.

In the Nigerian scam, they are looking for really naive people who don't know much about banking or anything and can be easily taken for ride. If they write great emails and camouflage, they will get quite a few responses as at that point people replying don't know its a scam. After a few email exchanges; smart people realize its a scam and walk-off.

For the scammer, he has spent / invested quite a bit of time to reply and the positive hit rate is bad.

So they make it quite obvious its a scam and wait for someone who hasn't heard or knows about it. This way he will get a better hit rate and doesn't have to invest time in responding.

Scammers appear intentionally bad at their first contact in order to weed out people who are too smart.

Sending mass spam emails to random addresses is cheap. But interacting with someone who replies is costly, because it requires a real human to write a custom response. If they interact with marks who are smart enough to become suspicious as soon as they get asked for money, then they are wasting their time. They only want to spend their time on the most gullible marks who never question anything. When one responds to the classic "I am a prince of Nigeria" email, then they obviously have never heard of the advanced fee fraud scam, so they are a potential victim worth spending time on.

And by the way: Not all scammers actually come from the country they claim to come from. 61% of those which get traced are in fact located in the United States. Claiming to come from an exotic location is often part of the ruse.

  • 2
    This is also why these scams are typically full of intentional grammar and spelling errors. – JimmyJames Sep 18 at 15:44
  • 1
    Note that the cited paper is 10 years old. Though I doubt that much has changed. – Michael Kay Sep 18 at 17:51
  • 5
    Not just an "exotic" location, but a location which their ideal marks association with crime and corruption and entertain delusions of benefitting from. – R.. Sep 18 at 18:38

Obligatory XKCD (CC BY-NC 2.5):

Saying 'what kind of an idiot doesn't know about the Yellowstone supervolcano' is so much more boring than telling someone about the Yellowstone supervolcano for the first time.

The scammers are targeting those 10,000, as they're easier targets. Calling themselves Nigerian princes is a good way to focus on that audience.

From a cost/payoff perspective, they most definitely do NOT want a James Veitch, a skeptic who replies to scammers and wastes their time thinking they've got a mark when really they don't, and then presents these conversations to audiences as a form of comedy.

  • 5
    I love James' TED talks, etc. Hilarious to watch. – phyrfox Sep 19 at 2:12
  • 1
    It'd be helpful if you gave a quick description of who (and what he does that is relevant) James Veitch is rather than making people click on the website. – Dean MacGregor Sep 20 at 14:29
  • 1
    @DeanMacGregor He's a skeptic who replies to scammers and wastes their time thinking they've got a mark when really they don't. He then presents these conversations to audiences as a form of comedy. – WBT Sep 20 at 16:21
  • @WBT FYI, I paraphrased your previous comment into the answer; Take a look at the suggested edit. – jpaugh Sep 21 at 16:47
  • @jpaugh The suggested edit somewhat missed the point. The replies and time-wasting is not the form of comedy; his presentation of it is. – WBT Sep 21 at 17:39

I think the most likely answer is the scammer's end goal is to get you to transfer money to a Nigerian bank account. Being somewhat poor and from Nigeria, that's basically what they can get. So they need to be honest about that part upfront so as to not waste time on people who will balk at that part later.

  • 6
    How many scammers actually use their own bank accounts? That would be too easy to trace. Most use services like Western Union or even ITunes gift cards. – curiousdannii Sep 19 at 3:02
  • 1
    Bank transfers are quite common nowadays, due to online banking. If you try to go to a western union branch and transfer a large sum into Nigeria, they are sure to ask you at least 4 times if you're really aware what you're doing and who you're sending it to. With bank transfers, even if the bank calls you, you're sort of already committed in your mind that this is the right thing to do. Oh and banks absolutely do contact people sending big sums of money to Nigeria, after second time at least. Some people stop at that - some are already too invested by that point in believing the scam. – Lassi Kinnunen Sep 19 at 13:14
  • 7
    Wait... what? Nigerian scammers are poor and can't get bank accounts anywhere else? No - you've got a bad mental model of what's going on here. "Nigerian Scammers" often aren't even from Nigeria. The reason Nigerian Scams have typos, misspellings, and unbelievable stories that always mention 'Nigeria' is because the worst thing that can happen in a scam attempt is that they waste hours of time personally interacting with a potential victim, only to not end up getting anything out of it. The emails are crafted to discourage wise/knowledgeable people to not bother with the reply. – Kevin Sep 19 at 18:38

protected by Nathan L Sep 19 at 17:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.