This scam is commonly referred to as a "419." It is named for the section of the Nigerian Penal Code that refers to "Advanced Fee" Frauds.

There are thousands of variations of Nigerian Letters. Most are signed by a person with an impressive title; Doctor, General, Counselor, Manager (or a Bank) or Madame. Each promises the reader a large sum of money at absolutely no risk. None are valid.

Fight Fraud America's Leslie K. is a recognized expert on this type of fraud. She not only traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to participate in the first Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce Conference on 419 Scams (along with the US Secret Service), but she has been a guest speaker for the Federal Government's Nigerian Crime Conference (restricted to federal law enforcement). If you need her help to sort out a mess than you are already involved in, send us an email. Quick. If you are thinking about getting involved with a stranger in another country who is offering to graciously share a $10 million bounty with you, don't. If you are a really sick puppy and you have some time on your hands, try "scam baiting." It's fun and generally harmless. Our favorite site for this new "hobby" is www.ebolamonkeyman because we happen to think that Mike is a really cool guy who makes us laugh so hard when we're chomping on milk and cookies ... that milk comes out of our noses.

Are there any honest people in Nigeria? Here's what Leslie has to say about that:

"Of course. In fact, MOST Nigerians are honest people. But jobs are scarce in this Third World country and the rich are VERY rich and the poor are VERY poor. Thus labor is cheap and otherwise honest individuals do the grunt work of sending out thousands of emails a day.

A person in the US spends more money on a single meal at McDonalds that an employed Nigerian earns in a week. Nigeria has no welfare system, no food stamps, no government paid medical plans, no housing allowance, no social security system -- no nothing. If you have an ill child and no cash, chances are that your child will die. Because we really have no reference for comparison, it's difficult to even imagine what it is like to try to survive in Nigeria.

Most of the Nigerian letters tell stories of political assassinations and surviving family members trying to find a way to sneak their millions out of Nigeria and into the bank account of a helpful American who wants to share in the "profits." As nice as it might sound to get a multi-million dollar windfall, it ain't gonna happen.

Victims have been falling for this scam for years now, and some have lost more than money. They've lost their lives. So no matter how legitimate the letter looks, do NOT get involved. If you really want to help the people of Nigeria, we'll help you find an honest charity. There are churches that send Missionaries to Nigeria and their work is both honest and admirable."