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419 Scam

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An uncommon case of Bart applying some common sense.Meanwhile... 

"Got message number 419
This lucky day is mine, all mine"

The advance fee fraud, known colloquially as the 419 scam, is a form of Internet fraud commonly associated with Nigeria (hence its alternative name, the Nigerian Prince scam).

The character is contacted by someone who claims (in suspiciously shaky English) to have a large sum of money which is rightfully his but which he cannot access for various reasons (sealed account, locked trust fund, etc.), and he needs the mark's help to be able to access it. If he helps out, he'll get a substantial share of the money, which could be millions of dollars. To do this, the scammer typically needs the mark's own bank account to help him transfer the money, and he needs some of the mark's own money in advance to help authorize the transfer, bribe officials, or do anything else the scammer can think of. But the money doesn't exist; once the scammer gets the mark's money or access to his bank account, he cuts off all contact. It's basically the "Spanish Prisoner" scam for the Internet age.

As a trope, though, it's not usually used as a way to drive the overall plot like the Spanish Prisoner scam is; instead, it usually goes to show how stupid or gullible a character is for falling for it. The common subversion is thus the money being real and the character unluckily passing up a reward from an actual wealthy Nigerian prince. A particularly clever character might become a "scambaiter", who pretends to fall for the scam and strings the scammer along until he gets him into a humiliating or compromising situation.

In Real Life, the term derives from Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, which prohibits fraud and details the punishments and penalties that await fraudsters. However, it's used to refer to all scams of this kind, even when they don't involve Nigeria or bank accounts at all. The Real Life workings of this trope are explained in greater detail on the Analysis page. But to be a trope, it helps to use shorthand, and that's why it nearly always involves a Nigerian with a big bank account he can't access. This Nigerian is also often a prince, even though Nigeria is a republic and not a monarchy (not that the mark would be expected to know this), although it does have traditional ceremonial "princes" (not that the mark would be expected to know that, either).

Considered a Dead Horse Trope in modern works, mostly because there are more subversions of the trope than actual straight uses; case in point, the image for this page is also a subversion.

Compare Clickbait Gag, a trope that parodies a later manipulative internet tactic meant to make money off of people's gullibility.

Has nothing to do with scams coming from Area Code 419, which covers the metropolitan area of Toledo, Ohio, but scam calls could originate from there.

References in media

    open/close all folders 

  • An ad for the drink Snapple (known for putting various Little Known Facts on the bottom of their bottle caps) had a group of 19th century people receiving a Nigerian prince message via telegraph and celebrating their good fortune. The commercial then cuts to a modern day man reading the fact "The first spam message was sent via telegram in 1864" before drinking his Snapple.

    Comic Books 
  • Right at the first issue of Gotham City Sirens, we have Catwoman wondering what Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn did to the money stolen from Hush that she gave them. Ivy's part was sent to a reforestation project; Harley's part, well...
    Catwoman: So I'm right in assuming you're spending the money I gave you as fast and as foolishly as you can.
    Harley: What's wrong with splurgin' on a few nice things? Besides, I put some away, made some investments...
    Catwoman: Please tell me they didn't involve sending money to a Nigerian prince.
    Harley: You got his e-mail, too?!
  • One Knights of the Dinner Table strip deals with one of the Knights receiving a Nigerian banking scam email. Hilarity Ensues.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one FoxTrot strip, Roger warns Andy to not respond to an email from a Nigerian widow offering 10 million for $500... because he's currently waiting on 20 million from a Ugandan for $350.
    Roger: Andy, delete it, it's a total scam.
    Andy: Gee, you think?
    Roger: Yup. I'm getting $20 million from a Ugandan for $350.
    Andy: This is where you say "just kidding..."
  • Ratbert fell for one in a Dilbert strip. Since the banking information he provided was "My bank is a tube sock that fell behind the dryer", the man on the other end of the scheme couldn't steal any money from him.

    Fan Works 
  • In the works of A.A. Pessimal, the Discworld equivalent of this scam involves a bogus clacks message purportedly from a Howondaland noble. This despite them not even having the clacks in Howondaland, as Commander Vimes points out in The Civilian Assistant.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Subverted in "The Autobiography" when a message from a Nigerian prince shows up in Penny's email inbox. Penny deletes it, but it turns out the offer is genuine and she misses out on a big payday.
  • Manages to reach Equestria in Dear Friend, within the Triptych Continuum. Spike fires off a series of ersatz scrolls after ingesting some "griffon-made canned lunch meat", one of which is clearly based on a classic 419. It involves the previously-unsuspected son of Sombra, twenty million bits deposited in Ponyville, and a request to help free the money so it can be used for retaking the homeland after the actions of the maniacal Preencess Celestia and the knownownown insane killer unicorn, Twilight Sparkle. (The scroll is filled with similar errors, including "horsepital" and "proponysal".) And just to top it off, it's signed "Sucker Bet".
  • Referenced twice in The Karma of Lies:
    • Adrien defends his refusal to do anything about Lila scamming his classmates by insisting that she's not doing anything really bad, like "convincing them to send their money to one of those Nigerian prince email scams." The irony of this is that Lila is employing similar tactics with her Celebrity Lies... for instance, getting all of her friends to donate to a Fake Charity supposedly run by an Italian fashion mogul.
    • Lila also compares this to her own methods, noting that her more over-the-top claims deliberately strain credibility in this vein in order to see who falls for them, allowing her to identify both the easiest marks and which ones require a little more finesse. Most of her classmates fall hook, line and sinker for her Too Good to Be True claims; Adrien, meanwhile, falls into the category of "knows that she's a liar, but thinks he's too smart to be tricked."
  • In A Young Girl's Delinquency Record, while touring Africa, Tanya and Visha meet with a man who claims to be the exiled king of a gold-rich nation seeking their help to return to assume the throne. Tanya, for shits and giggles, decides to help him. He's 100% legit.
  • DR DAVID EHI reverse scam has Nigerian Businessman Dr. David Ehizojie seeking a foreign partner for a multi-million dollar natural gas project. Through e-mail he comes in contact with someone claiming to be Dr. Randolph Carter from Miskatonic University in Arkham, who needs money to finance his research into some fragmentary references to a god named "Cthulhu.". Hilarity Ensues, especially reading the side-notes of the guy pretending to be Randolph: "The Necronomicon, Cthulhu, Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport, R'lyeh, Dagon, "Starry Wisdom," and the names Ward, Armitage, and Randolph Carter are all very familiar to anyone that's read the works of Lovecraft. All this dope has to do is type them into a search engine and he'll see I'm full of shit."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The direct-to-DVD film EZ Money is based around this; the film's tagline is "The Nigerian e-mail scam gets scammed."
  • Parodied in Freeloaders, where it turns out the Nigerian prince that asked Benny for money is 100% legit and shows up at the end of the movie as a Deus ex Machina, handing Benny his share of the inheritance — $38 million, which allows Benny to buy the mansion that he and his friends were crashing at instead of being forced onto the streets, thus resolving the plot.
  • Layer Cake: Jimmy Price lost his fortune in a far more elaborate version: a Foreign Minister from some unnamed African country came to the UK shopping for investors, boasting of the country's vast mineral reserves and promising huge returns. He didn't mention that the country's communist insurgents were poised to overthrow the current regime, so he just stashed all his gains in his Swiss Bank Account and broke off all contact with his investors.

  • 419 by Will Ferguson is named after and centers on one of these scams. Laura Curtis' father, Henry, dies in a car crash after getting ensnared in one, and she goes to Nigeria looking to bring the perpetrator to justice. Said perpetrator was taught to try to exploit latent or active White Guilt in his targets, but they don't even believe it.
  • Afrofuturist 419 by Nnedi Okorafor has a Nigerian astronaut trapped on a Space Station being the subject of a 419 Scam IN SPACE!.
  • Akata Witch has an offhand comment that Leopard people run magical 419 scams stealing from peoples' accounts.
  • In the introduction of Dave Barry's Money Secrets, Dave Barry claims to have received the promised $47 million from a Nigerian businessman after sending him two $5,000 "advance fee" checks. Less gullible readers may be able to tell that he was making this up.
  • Delete This At Your Peril features Bob Servant baiting Internet scammers, including a few attempted 419s from Africa. After getting an offer from to assist in transferring money from a dead African tribal chief in return for a share of the monkey, Servant haggles for payment with talking lions and singing leopards.
  • The epilogue of Halting State features an apparent 419 scam email addressed to the book's villain. Given what we know at the end of the book, the email could be taken at face value, indicating that the villain stashed his ill-gotten gains in a Nigerian bank.
  • In one of the Grantville Gazette short stories, this scam is applied against members of minor nobility by some who were familiar with it from uptime 20th century literature, with said nobility being too concerned about their reputation to try to assist catching the perpetrator.
  • In Jesus on Thyface, Jesus receives a message from the son of a former deceased president who knows the location of King Solomon's Mines and needs someone to help him assist in transferring the funds.
  • In Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (a story about aliens visiting Lagos), one of the many incidental characters is a man running scams out of an internet cafe, justifying it by claiming that the white people he scams wouldn't fall for it if they weren't a bit racist anyway. Once he sees a Masquerade and an alien entering the computer, he figures it's time to give it up.
  • Bob Howard of The Laundry Files recalls in a footnote the one time he decided to respond to one of the innumerable 419 messages he gets in his inbox. He doesn't go into much detail, aside from noting that Laundry Internal Security were less than amused and made him give back their bank.
  • In Monster Hunter Vendetta, this and other Internet scams are mentioned as being sent by actual mythical trolls.
  • In Our Dumb World, the first page on Nigeria is taken up by a poorly-spelled e-mail letter purporting to be from the "People of Nigeria" (, begging for foreign aid and promising to provide "15% (US$26,250,000,000) of the total sums of our GDP" to anyone willing to "fly to our country, preferably with 10,000 of your closest associates and confidantes, and bring guns." Recipients who do not wish to come to Nigeria but still want to help are asked to reply with their contact details and bank account numbers. A sidebar illustrates the educational system which teaches Nigerians how to send mass e-mail in the "Computers 419" course.
  • In the short story "Our Man in Geneva Wins a Million Euros" by Petina Gappah, the protagonist falls for one of these scams. Less typically, both the victim and the scammer are people of African origin living in Europe.
  • "A Thief in Ni-Moya", a short story in the Majipoor Series, has a woman swindled out of her savings by people claiming these are fees for inheriting a large estate.
  • Yes Man by Danny Wallace (The book which inspired the Jim Carrey film of the same name) has Danny being roped into such a scam, partly out of not recognising it as such and partly because the premise of the book is that he's under a self-imposed obligation to say "yes" to any offer he receives from a stranger. Fortunately, he tells one of his friends about it before he wires any money or shares any of his details, and the friend helps him turn the tables on the scammer.
  • The protagonist of Zoo City creates these scams to pay off her remaining debts from her junkie days. When she's finally out of debt, she informs all her remaining victims that it's a fraud, then falsely implicates her ex-boyfriend (whom she despises) in running the scam.
  • Ragged Dick has a nineteenth century example. A scammer approaches Dick, claiming he found a large wallet in the street that he doesn't have time to return to its rightful owner because he has to visit his sick family. He offers to let Dick return the wallet and take the reward if he will pay the scammer 20 dollars. Dick, realizing the wallet contains only worthless paper, gives the scammer a counterfeit bill and runs off with the wallet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an early episode of 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan nonchalantly mentions that he recently received actual money from a Nigerian prince he agreed to help out, and now he's wondering what to use it for.
  • The Belgian series Basta had an episode in which a bunch of real 419 scammers were extensively trolled.
  • In the tenth and final episode of the first season of Better Call Saul, during the scams Jimmy and Marco are pulling, Jimmy tells one victim that there is a 27-year-old Nigerian prince named Idi Abbassi who is worth "conservatively, 400 million dollars." Unfortunately for this prince, the dictatorship of Equatorial Uqbar Orbis is detaining him on trumped-up charges; the Abbassi family will reward whomever helps them get their boy back, but the "hitch" is that the banks have frozen their assets.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon gets all his items hijacked from his World of Warcraft account by a hacker, and Raj finds someone online "from Nigeria" who claims that he can retrieve all the items "for a fee".
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake is astonished to learn that his dimwitted fellow detective Scully has fallen for over twenty such scams.
  • One episode of Castle had a con artist as the Body of the Week. While investigating his background, the team discovered that he had received a 419 scam e-mail and proceeded to scam the scammer out of ten grand.
  • Played With in Community: Abed's Internet friend Toby is a banker who works in Nigeria. He had financial difficulties, so Abed sent him 700 pounds and a plane ticket. Britta is about to break the news to Abed that he was scammed, when Toby shows up and gives Abed back his money. He then complains that of all the people he contacted, only Abed was willing to help him.
  • Dr. Phil has had people who fell for these scams on the show. One was a woman who fell in love with a Nigerian scam artist who asked her for thousands of dollars. The man claimed to be a veteran and fed her all kinds of information that turned out to be false.
  • In Season 2, Episode 2 of Flight of the Conchords, Murray invests the band's last remaining emergency funds with with a Nigerian man named Nigel Seladu, who contacted him by e-mail. While Bret and Jermaine are confident it's a scam, it turns out to be legitimate, and the band uses the money to pay their rent and bail themselves out of jail for prostitution.
  • Ghosts (US): Pete, Trevor and Flower fall for one such scam in "Whodunnit" after Pete, who got an e-mail account made so he could get the Reader's Digest joke of the day, got a message from a "Nigerian prince" and they wired money from Sam and Jay's bank account. It's only after Trevor Googled "Nigerian Prince" that they realize what they did; fortunately, Sam got a fraud alert on her phone and canceled the transaction.
  • On Henry Danger, Piper asks her father for a thousand dollars as she just got an e-mail from a foreign prince, saying anyone who shares that can get a million dollars. Naturally, her father thinks it's a scam and tells Piper if she wants the money, earn it herself. Piper spends the episode on various nutty schemes and jobs and is close to raising the money. Her dad tells his wife he'll wait for her to almost have it all before telling her the whole thing is a fraud. At which point, a news story breaks on how the prince is real, sent these e-mails out and the only person who responded with the money is Piper's arch-rival from school who is not only now rich but dating the prince. Piper gives her dad an ugly look as he just has an "oops?" expression.
  • How I Met Your Mother had Katy Perry as a guest star who played an extremely gullible girl who fell for one of these.
  • iCarly (2021): Freddie mentions that he once fell for the Nigerian Prince scam. Hence why he thinks the delivery girl who wants his phone number is trying to steal his identity.
  • Judge Judy sadly deals with people who have been scammed, even into 2019. One example is where a contractor (the defendant) was asked to rebuild a driveway for the owner of a house. However, the contractor was the victim of a scammer who was asking for the driveway to be rebuilt. One huge red flag that should have tipped off the defendant was that the scammer asked to be wired $300 before paying the defendant $6,000. The defendant not only lost $300 but went over to the plaintiff's house to do the contracting work, destroying part of the driveway before the real home owner (the plaintiff) came and stopped them. The plaintiff was suing the defendant for rebuilding the driveway. Judge Judy could hardly get though the case without laughing the whole time over how stupid the defendant was and awarded the plaintiff the money to rebuild the driveway.
  • Invoked in the pilot episode of Leverage, duly titled "The Nigerian Job". The mark is told that he's receiving an offer for a contract with the Nigerian government, but is suspicious in part because "it's like those email scams with Nigerian bank fraud letters." Which was exactly what Nate wanted him to think. In fact, the men the mark met really were Nigerian officials, and the mark ends up in serious hot water with the FBI.
  • In the seventh episode of the fifth season of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese mentions he was "gonna invest [his money] with this Nigerian general who's been sending [him] emails."
  • A sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look had three wealthy brothers phoning up members of the public to give them a free "massive yacht," provided they paid off a few legal fees. Naturally, they were quite confused that nobody was interested in their free yachts despite their "warm and reassuring" (that is: robotic and automated-sounding) voices and the insignificance of the legal fees when compared to the value of a massive yacht.
    • In a later episode, the same characters were excited to give the millionth visitor to their website a free massive yacht, but since the popup link they personally sent looked suspiciously like a scam this too was rejected, much to their shock.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Prendrick's Planetary Parlour", when the station house gets a Prendrick Portal, which is an Edwardian e-mail and chatroom system, Inspector Brakenreid almost falls for this, until Prendrick points out that the sending portal is in Niagra, not Nigeria.
  • An arc in The Night Shift shows Olafur falling for one and continuing to believe in it despite everyone around him pointing out that it's a scam. The scam artist eventually shows up at Olafur's workplace, having already flown to Iceland with Olafur's money, and Daniel gets him arrested.
  • Michael Scott on The Office has been mentioned to support "about twenty Nigerian princesses".
  • Frenchie and Oluwande on Our Flag Means Death manage to pull this off hundreds of years before the creation of the Internet by posing as an Egyptian prince and his viceroy at a party full of gullible aristocrats.
  • In 1000 Ways to Die, a Nigerian con artist scams a poor schmuck into giving him his whole life savings. When the victim ultimately realizes he was scammed, he angrily tracks down the con artist and ends up accidentally killing him by driving a door hook into the con artist's eye.
  • Person of Interest turned this into a multi-level Mugging the Monster. Some gangsters tried to pull this on Leon Tao. However, since he's a very skilled forensic accountant, he was able to steal from them. They were unamused and showed up to kill him, and to his immense surprise were actually Nigerian. Unfortunately for them, he's a recurring number on Team Machine, so Reese shows up to save him.
  • While hosting SNL in 2008, Anne Hathaway joked about her ex-boyfriend, Raffaello Follieri, going to prison for fraud, then gushes about her new boyfriend, a Nigerian prince whom she met on the Internet.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): Diego calls Luther out for trusting Sloane, a member of the enemy group, citing the time he trusted a "Nigerian prince" when they were younger.
    Luther: Tunde was not a prince, he was a king, and he was unjustly deposed!
  • The Veronica Mars episode "The Wrath of Con" features two college students pulling off a scam based on this in order to raise money for the video game they're making. The "sealed account" is the students' trust fund.

  • Nigerian hip hop group 419 Squad get their name from the scam.
  • "I Go Chop Your Dollar" is a taunting song from the perspective of a scammer of other 419 scammers; a "dollarchop" refers to the practice of one scammer swooping in to intercept the money another scammer had bilked from the naïve mark. It even includes the line, "419 is just a game."
  • "Lame Claim to Fame" by "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    I bought a secondhand toaster
    From a guy who says he knows Brad Pitt.
    I got me an email from the Prince of Nigeria.
    Well, he sure
    sounded legit.
  • The song by MC Frontalot in the page quote is about someone who's a little too eager to get a 419 email. See also here.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One vignette in Transhuman Space: Toxic Memes is a typical 419 e-mail, adjusted for the setting — the sender claims to be the widow of the former head of state of Thailand, deposed after the Pacific War. It's followed by a message from the recipient's AI assisitant saying that the sender has been traced if he wants to report it.

    Video Games 
  • In Crusader Kings II, you can be contacted by someone claiming to represent an Abyssinian prince. If you have the "Scholar" trait, you can reply by pointing out that the names in the message aren't Abyssinian.
  • You can find 419 emails in computer mailboxes in Deus Ex: Human Revolution; although they mostly only appear in home PCs, there are a few on the computers of offices and institutions, and you can even find other emails lamenting how the spammers were able to get hold of a corporate email account including one instance in the top secret Omega Ranch.
  • In Doom³, if you took the PDA from Larry Kaczynski, one of his messages contains a 419 scam written by a certain "John Okonkwo" (included in this link here).
  • Hawke in Dragon Age II gets one in the form of an actual letter which is ostensibly from the Seneschal serving Starkhaven's recently-overthrown Vael family. He promises a sum of 10,000 sovereigns if Hawke were to open a bank account in Antiva with 100 sovereigns deposited to make the account viable. Incidentally, the last son of said Vael family is a (Downloadable Content) party member.
  • Endless Sky: As you walk through the spaceport, a voice from a nearby TV screen suddenly talks to you (yes, you) and introduces himself as Mr. Smith, kindly asking to donate 200 thousands credits to process a rich inheritance from a recently deceased warlord Limping Pappa and be paid a sizable part of it in return, in what looks suspiciously like a scam advertisement. You may accept to do it, or call it a scam and walk away. It is in fact a scam, and you may have overheard NPC merchants talking about not falling for inheritance scams before.
  • In Hypnospace Outlaw, a Hypnospace user sends the player character an e-mail. He claims that a rich person will grant him a submarine if he gathers enough Hypnocoin in time, which would allow him to hunt for treasure that he'd really share with the donors. He's serious. If you choose to donate to him, he actually acquires a submarine and sets off to find the treasure; he posts his coordinates to Hypnospace, which end up being his last known location before going missing.
  • Mass Effect 2 gives Shepard an e-mail account to receive assorted plot-related messages and information, but which also suffers from the usual amount of standard spam e-mail. Apparently in the Mass Effect verse, the standard spiel involves Prothean artifacts from Ilos being stuck in customs, with a cut of the profits offered to the one who puts up the front money required to get them cleared. It shows up again in Mass Effect: Andromeda, where it seems to be an import from the Milky Way and targets a party member. Based on conversations you can hear, they may have fallen for it.
  • The game RE: Prince of Nigeria is mainly about a girl who does not get that she is being scammed and ends up falling in love with this supposed "Prince", played for laughs. In fact, from the get-go she doesn't care one iota about the money and is only interested in pursuing romance with this supposed prince.

    Web Animation 
  • An installment of The Cyanide & Happiness Show, "Junk Mail", runs with the comedic premise of "what if all the crappy spam email you ignore was real?" After the main character starts actually answering these emails, and quadrupled the length of his penis and gotten incredibly rich from working home, he naturally gets one of these emails, and moments later is partying with a Nigerian man in royal regalia.
  • Etra chan saw it!: Tachibana receives an email message from an alleged high-ranking Nigerian official who promises him to double the amount of the money he lent to them; obviously, this turns out to be a scam, and Akamatsu and other people also fell for it. It is revealed that Hiiragi manipulated Tachibana, Akamatsu and others into getting scammed by sending them the scammer's email during their high school reunion as revenge for bullying him and not helping him from being bullied, respectively.
  • Referenced in the Red vs. Blue PSA "Real Life vs. The Internet", comparing getting mail from a mailbox vs. e-mail:
    Simmons: Pardon me, my friend, but I am Nigerian royalty, and I need you to send me money. Please ignore the fact that I cannot spell "Nigerian" or "royalty".

  • In this Achewood Story Arc, Ray gets a Nigerian scam email that turns out to be an actual plea for help getting money out of the country.
  • The Bedfellows: Sheen prevents Fatigue from becoming a victim of this in one strip. Subverted, as there really was a prince after all.
  • Irregular Webcomic!:
    • The "Nigerian Finance Minister" theme places the actual guy in charge of Nigerian finance in the position these letters tend to spell out. He's genuinely looking to get his money transferred, but his honest plea naturally ends up looking just like the classic scam pitch and getting about the same response. Even when he hires William Shakespeare to write them.
    • A completely separate "Nigerian Prince" scam tried to pin everything on not-Steve-Irwin. Fortunately, Jane Goodall was able to prove in court that not only was he not king of Nigeria, but Nigeria is a republic with no royal family.
  • In this strip of the webcomic The Joy Of Tech, a bank employee encounters a 419 victim and opportunistically asks for a bank fee of her own, which he has to give to her personally.
  • Least I Could Do: Rayne gets an e-mail with this sort of scam in this strip and decides to go to Nigeria to meet his princess and claim his inheritance.
  • In this Penny Arcade comic, Gabe announces his intent to fly to Holland to meet a Swazi princess he met on the Internet and whose bank account she needs to retrieve her vast fortune:
    Tycho: And you're not worried that Nigerian thugs are going to cut off your balls.
    Gabe: I'm worried I won't be able to find the bathrooms. Everything's gonna be in Hollish.
  • A strip from Real Life Comics has Mae Dean looking through her email, which is full of these scams. The email is asking for a monetary donation because the daughter (or other relation) of the sender is suffering from some terminal illness. Except with each scam email she reads, the sickness gets progressively less severe and the asking amount for the donation progressively more, with the last one asking for a $100 donation for a cold.
  • Rusty and Co., in its usual Dungeon Punk style, had Calamitus scammed by one such letter in Critical Missives after he began to look like a genuine threat rather than a comically incompetent goofball.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "Scam" explains how claiming to be from Nigeria in these scams is a way to weed out potential non-stupid responders.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Sam is too clever for the scammers:
    "Aw! Just another scam from some dude claiming to be the Prime Minister of Abscondia trying to drain my bank account! That lame-o doesn't know my account was already drained by the Princess of Scamrobi. But that's OK because she was probably hot."
  • User Friendly: Pitr receives a 419 scam e-mail. He uses his wits and his hacking skills to screw the scammer over.
  • Wally and Osborne briefly references this here.
  • xkcd:

    Web Original 
  • Many scambaiting sites have publishing sections where scambaiters regale their exploits, including 419 Eater (and its forum), Sweet Chilli Sauce and Scam-o-Rama. Some of the exploits go enough into seemingly Disproportionate Retribution that scambaiters have to remind readers that their targets are criminals to dispel any feelings of pity for them.
  • CollegeHumor did a sketch with the twist being that the Nigerian prince funds really were legit, only for the email to be deleted by a jaded college student.
  • The Drabblecast hosts the annual Nigerian Scam Spam Contest; the winning one gets emailed out to unsuspecting members of the general public.
  • In the episode "Cherry Bomb" of Friendship is Witchcraft, Applejack goes out of town to retrieve two free iPod Nanos offered through a popup window. As her train is leaving, Pinkie reminds her to "Say hi to the Nigerian prince." As everypony turns to her in confusion, she says, "What? He owes me money."
  • A page full of poetry (often well-known poems reworked) about 419 scams. Absolutely hilarious.
  • The bots of the Jolly Roger Telephone Company were designed to respond to telemarketers, however, some enterprising scam-baiters figured out that they might be used to engage with this routine as well. They would trick the scammer by responding to their e-mail saying that they don't like to deal over e-mail and only want to respond by phone and then give out the number for one of these bots. Eventually, Jolly Roger creator Roger Anderson picked up on this and designed a couple of bots which are specifically designed to respond to this scam. They will do stuff like saying that they're worried about it being a scam and need reassurance, repeat that they only want to deal by phone and not e-mail and pretend to start reading off a confirmation number, only to stop before they can finish.
  • Youtuber KSI, who is Nigerian English, referenced this once. In his video "How to be Rich on Ultimate Team", he told the viewers to send their FIFA Soccer data and bank accounts to the email address in order to get a "blessing".
  • Subverted in the Real-Time Fandub of Spider-Man (PS4). After Peter Parker receives a note from Otto Octavius to check his e-mail, Otto says that he got an email from a Nigerian prince who offered them $10,000. The offer turns out to be legitimate, and Peter uses the money to upgrade his Spider-Man suit in time for the next scene.
  • The series Scamalot is about its host James' response to such scams.
  • SF Debris loves to talk about how stupid the Kazon, and particularly Culluh, are on Star Trek: Voyager. It reached a zenith of hilarity in the "Basics" review when he mentions that Culluh is getting frustrated, as he has not heard back from that bank manager in Nigeria.
  • Something Awful's Rich Kyanka did his own bit of scam baiting once (apparently genuine), just because it's the kind of thing he does when he gets stupid emails.
  • Texts from Superheroes: This entry sees Thor discover that all of Black Panther's (an actual African prince) emails have been sent to his spam folder for this reason. He also discovers a bunch of other "Nigerian princes" require his aid, so he and Panther decide to send them Tony Stark's bank information to help them out. Needless to say, Tony isn't happy.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Big Hero 6: The Series episode "De-Based", Fred receives an e-mail from the royal family of "Spamivia". Clicking the link downloads a virus to Basemax that convinces her she's the Queen of Spamivia, and anyone who says she isn't is a traitor.
  • Doug has the Ponzi Puzzle Sweepstakes, which is an advance fee fraud variant despite the name. Lured with an enormous (alleged) payout, contestants are given ever-harder puzzles in exchange for ever-increasing entry fees at each level. Doug finally gives up after seeing a cart of entries (at a level that sounded really really exclusive and close to the end) at the post office.
  • DuckTales (2017): According to Word of God, whenever Gladstone Gander receives these emails, they turn out to be legitimate. "He has aided several real Deposed Nigerian Princes and Stranded Russian Astronauts and been handsomely rewarded for it."
  • The Family Guy episode "Scammed Yankees" centers on Carter and Peter falling for this scam.
  • The first Futurama feature film, Bender's Big Score, centers on a group of scammers who con the Planet Express business and then use that as a base to scam the whole of Earth. Hermes is onto them from the start, but every other character falls for it at least once. Professor Farnsworth catches on that the crew is being scammed... then falls for a claim he won the Spanish National Lottery and is tricked into signing over his company. Weirdly, Dr. Zoidberg claims halfway through the film that he actually did get the money. Eventually the scammers are defeated by Bender, who claims he's been working the long con all along.
  • In one episode of Skinner Boys, the boys manage to scam villain Obsidian Stone into revealing his current location by sending him a promise of a million dollars to use in his world conquest schemes and tracing his mail reply.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Princess Guide", Moe falls for one such scam, and when he finds out that Homer is caring for a Nigerian princess while her father is inking a deal with Mr. Burns, Moe assumes her brother is the prince who scammed him.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Sgt. Hatred hints that falling for one of these might have been the final straw that caused his wife to leave him.

    Real Life 
  • We won't put any specific cases here, only the scam strategies and stories that are discovered, with the added bonus of helping people avoid such pitfalls. For more details, see the Analysis page.

  • Let's start with the Ur-Example, for historical value if nothing else, the above mentioned "Spanish prisoner" trick: In its original form, the confidence trickster tells his victim (the mark) that he is (or is in correspondence with) a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity. Some versions had the imprisoned person being an unknown or remote relative of the mark. Supposedly the prisoner cannot reveal his identity without serious repercussions, and is relying on a friend (the confidence trickster) to raise money to secure his release. In this classic pigeon drop game archetype, the confidence trickster offers to let the mark put up some of the funds, with a promise of a greater monetary reward upon release of the prisoner plus a non-pecuniary incentive, gaining the hand of a beautiful woman represented to be the prisoner's daughter. After the mark has turned over the funds, he is informed further difficulties have arisen, and more money is needed. With such explanations, the trickster continues to press for more money until the victim is cleaned out, or declines to put up more funds.
    • Should the original con actually run to its fulfillment, the traditional ending is to hire a local woman, dress her up in some finery and have her meet with the mark, tearfully inform him that the prisoner was killed during the escape, and that she now also has to flee to avoid assassins. She then hands over a small but significant sum of money with the promise of more to come, kisses the mark, and vanishes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Four Nineteen Scam, Advance Fee Fraud


Re: Prince of Nigeria

A teenage girl, Horai Owen, replies to a 419 Scam e-mail from a "Nigerian prince." But far from wanting the money, she is interested only in the romantic possibilities communicating with a Nigerian prince has to offer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / FourOneNineScam

Media sources: