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Nigerian Email Scam

Brief Description of the Case

The Nigerian email scam is a fraud played against individuals from a global scope for the purpose of monetary gain. This scam mainly deals with money transfers whereby the victim is contacted via email or letter and given an offer to share a lump sum amount of money, which the scammers would like to save in the victim’s bank account (Easttom, 2011). Usually, there is an underlying story behind the incapability of the scammers to save money in their own country (they give several reasons such as the money being stuck due to the political instabilities within the country). This is the case in countries because of civil wars or coups. Another frequent reason given is that the money is part of a massive inheritance that has now become difficult to access due to taxation and other forms of government restrictions.

This scenario of scam is also known as the Nigerian 4-1-9 scam. This is because the first wave of these cases was reported in Nigeria. However, other countries also have such scammers. The name 4-1-9 originates from the Nigerian Criminal Code, which prevents this activity from taking place.

Major Category of Computer Crime That This Case Describes

The major category of computer crime described by this case is fraud.  The definition of computer fraud is given as any form of embezzlement or defalcation, which is accomplished by interfering with computer operations, equipment, data files, media or programs and leads to grave losses sustained by a victim whose computer system was altered.

Why it fits into this category

The Nigerian email scams fit perfectly into this category as they involve the illegal interference of an individual’s data files from their bank and consequently the victim loses all their finances. The scammers impersonate the victim once they get the victim’s personal information, particularly the bank information, such as the bank balance and credit card information. This information is then used to steal money from the bank and even from the credit card balance.

How to identify this category

Computer fraud is easily identified by various characteristics. For one, the scammers request for the victim’s bank information. They achieve this by promising the victim a large amount of money if at all they cooperate with the scammer. Once they have this information, they tamper with the victim’s bank data to gain information about the victim’s finances and consequently acquire them illegally.  

Laws (both Federal, state and local) concerned with this case

The main laws concerned with this case include the law against money laundering and the 419 fraud. Internationally, this case particularly goes against the laws prohibiting the conduction of financial transactions through specified illegal activity through movement of finances with help of various monetary instruments (De, 2012).

The anti-money laundering laws are also concerned with this form of scam. Bank officials are expected to confirm the identity of customers and apply due meticulousness to particular accounts, especially those involving international customers. Money laundering laws apply in this case as this involves concealing the source of illegal money from the authorities. The laws dictate that it is illegal to pass money from one individual to another with the awareness of illegal intent to hide the identity of the fund’s owner. Breaking of this rule prevents the victim from having a case against the scammers.

Overlap in laws that do not cover computer crimes

The laws particularly do not cover the larceny of computers and other related components. In this sense, information stolen from a computer is not termed as theft and as such, it is easy for the scammers to get away with theft as there are no laws against this (Stancliff, 2012).       

The email scams have also been noted to threaten the individual’s life and physical welfare. This is because the scammers get to access the victim’s physical address and could cause physical harm to them. For this reason, the laws against robbery with violence are applied in this case and they play a major role in arresting the scammers.

How the computer was used to commit the crime

The computer was used to send messages to the victim in order to gain acquisition of the victim’s bank information such as the account number and even the credit card information. With this information, the scammers then further use the computer to contact the related banks and thus acquire funds illegally.

For scammers, the computer is an important part of the crime as they can use it to reach out to a wider range of victims from all over the world. This allows them access to various bank accounts and thus widening their chances of acquiring illegal money. The crime is committed through altering of the victim’s information or theft of the victim’s finances through wire transfer.

Did an organized group or an individual attack commit this crime?

A group of individuals using different email addresses and phone lines usually commits Nigerian email scams. However, the groups are not particularly large ranging from about two individuals to as large and twenty. Based on previous knowledge, these crimes could accelerate to more serious crimes such as murder. An example of an accelerated scam incident occurred in South Africa where a victim of the scammers was kidnapped and a ransom of approximately $45000 was demanded (Baines, 2003). Further than that, aggravation of the victims could lead to serious crimes such as murder of individuals who are involved in the scams or even of innocent people in authority.