It’s called a 419 scam or advanced fee fraud. Many people have lost a lot of money to these scammers. The Urban Legends Reference page Snopes.com quotes a US Secret Service official as saying in a 1997 newspaper article that “We have confirmed losses just in the United States of over $100 million in the last 15 months.”
These scammers rake in a lot of money and it’s refreshing to see these fraudsters switch roles – this time as victims to scam baiters. The website 419 eater documents how scam baiters fight 419 fraudsters. If you check out the site, please make sure to read the Martins Jide scam and listen to the MP3 files of the phone conversations – it’s hilarious.