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An advance-fee scam is a form of fraud and one of the most common types of confidence trick. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum. Spanish Prisoner scam, the black money scam, Fifo’s Fraud and the Detroit-Buffalo scam. While Nigeria is most often the nation referred to in these scams, they originate in other nations as well. The modern scam is similar to the Spanish Prisoner scam which dates back to the late 18th century.
The modern day transnational scam can be traced back to Germany in 1922, and became popular during the 1980s. There are many variants of the letters sent. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman’s husband, and inquired about his health. 6 million investment, and ended with a telephone number.
The spread of e-mail and email harvesting software significantly lowered the cost of sending scam letters by using the Internet. One reason Nigeria may have been singled out is the apparently comical, almost ludicrous nature of the promise of West African riches from a Nigerian prince. According to Cormac Herley, a Microsoft researcher, “By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select. This scam usually begins with the perpetrator contacting the victim via email, instant messaging or social media using a fake email address or a fake social media account and making an offer that would allegedly result in a large payoff for the victim. To help persuade the victim to agree to the deal, the scammer often sends one or more false documents which bear official government stamps, and seals.