Recently I've noticed a significant increase in the number of 419 scam emails that land in my junk mail folder before I clean it out daily - and occasionally a few don't even get dumped into the junk mail folder - they end up directly in the inbox! Most of us already have learned to trash this utter bullshit, but it's a numbers game. The scammers know that if they send out 50,000 of these at a time (and believe you me, that's exactly what they do) -- that some poor uninitiated soul will respond, not knowing any better. And unwitting respondees do lose real money to these scumbags. As an old commodities trader once advised me as a rookie broker - "There are only two factors that control the market - fear, and greed" - and these scammers are finely honed experts at working the greed factor.
For those who aren't totally familiar with the iterations of this scam, it operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal by normal means. Common variations on the Scam include "overinvoiced" or "double invoiced" oil or other supply and service contracts where your Bad Guys want to get the overage out of Nigeria (that's the Classic 419); crude oil and other commodity deals (a form of Goods and Services 419); a "bequest" left you in a will (Will Scam 419, e.g. the bank depositor died in a horrible plane crash - complete with links to the CNN.com article); "money cleaning" where your Bad Guy has a lot of currency that needs to be "chemically cleaned" before it can be used and he needs the cost of the chemicals (Black Currency 419) ; "spoof banks" where there is supposedly money in your name already on deposit; "paying" for a purchase with a check larger than the amount required and asking for change to be advanced (cashier's check and money order 419); fake lottery 419; chat room and romance 419 (usually coupled with one of the other forms of 419); employment 419 (including secret shopper 419) ; and ordering items and commodities off "trading" and "auction" sites on the web and then cheating the seller. The variations of Advance Fee Fraud (419) are very creative and virtually endless - the above is only a brief summary of possibilities.
.NEXT Web Security Services has a flow chart of how these deals pan out. At a minimum, it should be worthwhile web browsing.
The 419eater is a vigilante group that deliberately targets and foils the scammers. Just reading about what they do will warm your heart and give you some good chuckles. They are for real; you might consider giving them a small donation if you aren't inclined to become a professional scam - baiter.
Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, and don't be a Turkey.