Nigerian scams or 419 scams, as they are sometimes called, are advance fee scams. Advance fee scams require the victim to pay money (a fee, a service fee, a processing fee, taxes, a service charge, a processing charge) before he or she can receive whatever was promised. Eventually the victim finds out the scamsters took your money, can’t be located and the great reward promised doesn’t exist.
Nigerian scams can be quite creative. Most claim they are from a very reputable person, company or government agency (not necessarily in Nigeria) that requires immediate help to transfer monies. They offer an exorbitant reward in exchange for providing banking information. Don’t believe them. When you do so, there is usually a “minor problem" with the transfer of monies. They will use any excuse, play on your sympathies, emotions or logic to manipulate you to give them your money. The more you pay, the more they want, and the more excuses you get. You won’t receive the promised monies because the monies don’t exist. The result of these scams is that a good portion or all of the monies associated with your banking information are gone.
The general rule is never provide your personal or financial information to strangers (even if they seem to be in need of much help or pretend to be someone in authority). Scamsters will try to push any emotional button to get you to part with your monies. They have no scruples.
You can find a list of known fake banks, companies and lotteries at http://wiki.aa419.org. You can find examples of Nigerian scams are at www.ccmostwanted.com/topics/sc/nigerian.htm. You can forward the Nigerian email scams you receive to law enforcement in the UK and the USA. You can file a complaint in Canada. If you are an American victim of a Nigerian scam and have lost money, you can contact the USA Secret Service.
To learn more about protecting yourself from scams, read The Four Features of Advance Fee Scams. The key to protecting yourself online is being informed. For a review about the Basics of Scams, read this article.