We found this interesting article posted by Odesi Desko, which tries to explain the origin of 419 scam. According to the article, 419 advance fee scam wasn’t invented by Nigerians (nothing to be proud of) but originates from the “spanish prisoner” scam. There is a link at Wikipedia, that most people might have overlooked, which explains how 419 scam started in Nigeria in the 1980s.
The Spanish Prisoner is a confidence trick dating back to the early 1900s. In its original form, the confidence man (con-man) tells his victim (the mark) that he is in correspondence with a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity. The alleged prisoner cannot reveal his identity without serious repercussions, and is relying on the confidence trickster to raise money to secure his release. The confidence trickster offers to let the victim supply some of the money, with a promise that he will be rewarded generously when the prisoner returns; financially and perhaps also by being married to the prisoner’s beautiful daughter. However, once the victim has turned over his money, he learns that further difficulties have arisen, requiring more money, and the trickster continues attempting to get more money until the victim is cleaned out and the process ends, presumably with the victim realizing he has been defrauded and that there is neither a rich man, nor a reward coming to him.
Key features of the Spanish Prisoner trick are the emphasis on secrecy and the trust the confidence trickster is supposedly placing in the victim not to reveal the prisoner’s identity or situation. The confidence trickster will often claim to have chosen the victim carefully, based on his reputation for honesty and straight dealing, and may appear to structure the deal so that the confidence trickster’s ultimate share of the reward will be distributed voluntarily by the victim.
Modern variants of the Spanish Prisoner include the advance fee fraud, in particular the Nigerian money transfer fraud (or “419 fraud”). In the advance fee fraud, a valuable item must be ransomed from a warehouse, crooked customs agent, or lost baggage facility before the authorities or thieves recognize its value. In the Nigerian variation, a self-proclaimed relative of a deposed African dictator offers to transfer millions of ill-gotten dollars into the bank account of the victim in return for small initial payments to cover bribes and other expenses. More recent examples feature people sharing the same surname as the intended victim, with the scammer guessing the surname from observing patterns in email addresses, or obtaining full names from harvested email headers.
Read the full article at the link below.