THE MAGAZINE

Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man

By Ross L. Johnson

*** ** 419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man. By Charles Tive; iUniverse, Inc., www.iuniverse.com (Web); 158 pages, $14.95.

The book 419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man is about one of the most ubiquitous cons of our time. Named for the section of the 1958 Nigerian Criminal Code that makes it illegal, the modus operandi should be familiar to all readers: a powerful person’s relative has access to huge money and needs your help laundering it. They will give you a piece of the action, but first, you must give a little bit of your own money to help.

There are a number of variations on this theme, but the outcome is always the same: the mark loses a lot of money. It is hard to imagine that anyone falls for this, but there are enough suckers to make the scam an industry unto itself. It can be physically dangerous as well, as the consequences have proven deadly for at least one suspected perpetrator and several victims.

This book is arranged in four parts: the historical background of 419 scams, types of activity, felonies that abet the scam, and suppression of 419 scams. There are three appendices including the various laws that deal with the issue, but these appendices take up over 40 percent of the book, and are probably not necessary to understand the problem.

The author, Charles Tive, was a Nigerian police officer and later an investigator with the U.S. embassy in Lagos. He explains the problem from a Nigerian point of view and demonstrates that his country does in fact take it seriously. This scam is a huge problem for West Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular, as it unfairly taints the entire region as a high-risk area for investors.

The first edition of this book was published in 2001. It’s unclear what prompted the new release, other than the inclusion in an appendix of a 2004 law establishing a Nigerian economic and financial crimes commission.

419 Scam is a good choice for anyone who is interested in the origins and operations of this variety of fraud, but there is not much particularly timely or new in this edition.

Reviewer: Ross Johnson, CPP, is manager of corporate security for EPCOR Utilities, Inc., in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is a member of ASIS International.

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