To the uninitiated 419 mails refer to a very popular email scam that originated in Nigeria, but is now coming from several other countries. The basic idea is simple. Somebody purporting to be a Nigerian banker contacts you, offering a chance to earn some serious money. Often his bank will be looking after the considerable fortune of a deceased millionaire - from shipping magnate to former president. He says he needs a foreign bank account through which to launder the money - and in return for sending him your bank details for this purpose, he will give you a share of the spoils.
Of course those who fall for this scam never see these promised millions. Instead their bank accounts are often cleaned out once they have handed over all their details - which include bank account numbers, copies of their passport and drivers licence and phone and fax numbers - it is a simple identity theft, dressed up with a tempting lure for the gullible.
My friend, Ifeanyi Nwabueze and I were once discussing what would actually happen if you replied to any of these mails. He later said he replied, but after the guyâ€™s first mail, he forgot all about it. Well, someone else had that idea, and he actually had a very interesting experience with the guy. The transcript of the emails that were transmitted between Will Sturgeon and the fictitious â€œMr. Madu Frankâ€ makes interesting reading. This particular site has taken the issue of Nigerian 419 mails very seriously and has loads of stuff of it. After reading this dialogue, you can check all their articles and discussions on this here.