419 Scam


A 419-scam illegal way of getting money from an individual/s by sending them an email promising that they will make a lot of money if they invest in a business activity which in fact does not exist. The details given to the recipient (“Victim”) vary, but the common element is always large sums of money being mentioned to make it attractive. While the vast majority of recipients do not respond to these requests, a very small percentage do, which is enough to make this type of fraud worthwhile. The modus operandi entails requesting the victims’ banking details as well as sums of money in advance, to facilitate the payment of the promised funds. Essentially, the promised money transfer to the victim never happens and in addition the fraudsters may use the victims’ banking details to withdraw money for themselves.

Some indications that this could be a 419 Scam:

  • Email content that sounds too good to be true.
  • The promise of large sums of money for little or no effort on the victim’s part.
  • A request to provide money upfront as a processing/administration fee. The request usually contains a sense of urgency.
  • The victim does not know the person who has sent the email.
  • At times, the sender requests confidentiality.
  • An email which states that the victim has won a prize/lottery or has been left an inheritance.
  • Payments requested to be made by MoneyGram.
  • Genuine companies’ letterheads are utilised to convince the victim of the authenticity of the request. 

General characteristics of a 419 Scam:

  • The amount of money involved is usually substantial (millions of dollars or pounds).
  • The communication is generally sent by someone claiming to be in a position of authority, such as a Government Official, Prince, Chief, Doctor, Solicitor, Lawyer or Bank Official.
  • They may use emotional bribery, such as claiming someone has died or is suffering from an illness.
  • The impression is given that you alone have been contacted, but the reality is that the same email was sent to multiple other people.
  • The victim is always promised either all, or a substantial percentage, of the money in return for assisting the fraudster in some way.
  • The victim will almost certainly be asked to communicate by email.


  • If you receive a scam email, do not reply.
  • You can however forward a copy of the e-mail to the Internet Service Provider from where the e-mail originated. example: abuse@hotmail.comabuse@yahoo.com;abuse@compuserve.cometc
  • Forward the email to the South African Police Services at 419scam@saps.org.za
  • If you have fallen victim, immediately contact the South African Police Services.