How Did Scams Begin?

To be honest, I don’t think anyone can give a definitive answer to how scams began, or even when for that matter.

People deceiving others is something that has probably occurred throughout history.

However, scamming is a phenomenon that has certainly gained more attention in the last few decades.

Whilst there are hundreds of different scams being pulled around the world at any one time, the most talked about tend to reference Nigeria.

Why is that?

Well, the reason why Nigeria has become associated with scamming is mainly due to the vast number of scams that originate from that country.

Areas such as the Netherlands, Russia, Britain and Romania seem to initiate more and more scams each day but Nigeria certainly pumps out more than it’s fair share.

Despite the obvious motive of greed it must be said that a lot of Nigerians live in poverty, certainly relative to the standard of living we enjoy in the Western world.

Some see scamming as a viable career choice in a country of limited opportunity.

Certainly back in the 1970s there is evidence of criminals looking to make huge sums by running the first 419, or advance fee, scams.

They were based around petroleum companies and large oil contracts back then.

Into the 1980s and the Nigerian scammers were targeting emminent businessmen and church officials via telephone, postal mail and fax.

With the growth of the internet, the scammers discovered they had a global market, which is obviously ideal when you consider the success rate of their scam campaigns is directly related to the number of people reading them.

The scams became more elaborate as the senders progressed and honed their skills.

They also started to buy email address lists and then went on to crawling websites in order to find contact details.

Nowadays it is open season and the scammers will target anyone via mass email programs, often not knowing who their potential victims are until they reply.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. Same here conman33, Nigeria is so synonymous with scamming now that many people perceive all the residents there as being criminals which just isn’t true.

    The police are doing a good job of cracking down on this kind of behaviour but it is such a big and lucrative business that I think it will probably take decades for Nigeria to lose the ‘scam’ tag.

  2. conman33 says:

    I dont know how they started but I do know that I am receiving hundreds of scam emails each month. The scams mention Nigeria as well as other countries such as Togo and Benin.

    Unfortunately now the mention of Nigeria in an email sets off the scam alarm bells ringing.

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