A Digital Forensic Analysis of Advance Fee Fraud (419 Scams)

A Digital Forensic Analysis of Advance Fee Fraud (419 Scams)

Christine I. Ofulue
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch019
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One of the significant implications of digital communication is the receipt of unsolicited emails. Several such mails share common features which characterize what has now come to be known as Advance Fee Fraud (AFF) mails or 419 mails. In particular, this chapter presents a structural analysis of the content of email correspondences for linguistic clues to help detect scams. Using a qualitative approach, the data comprising several unsolicited emails were analyzed for linguistic features vis a viz standard features of email communication and Standard English (SE). Findings revealed that the language of AFF emails share common linguistic features in aspects such as address, message, content construction, English as Second Language (ESL) errors, and non-native English features. The findings of this study enrich our understanding of language use in digital communication, and equip individuals and investigators with linguistic tools to determine authenticity through digital forensic examination.
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Background And Literature Review

Surprisingly, the 419 scam has not attracted a lot of scholarly attention (Carlson Analytics, 2008) nor has the phenomenon benefited from a comprehensive country specific report (Peel, 2006). Whereas Nigeria is known to be the origin of the phenomenon, most studies do not reflect the contributions of Nigerian literature nor perspective. For example, publications by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) provide valuable information from Nigerian and West African perspectives. Two other publications written by Charles Tive (2006) and Samuel Ifeagwu (2006) respectively provide general information. An EFCC publication edited by Ribadu et al (2007) provides the perspectives of Nigeria and neighboring West African states on the current trends of AFF in West Africa. Tanfa (2006), in a doctoral study provides a criminology perspective of AFF.

Key Terms in this Chapter

ESL (English as a Second Language): generally refers to the English used by speakers of English in the former colonies of Britain. The speakers have their first language, which is their mother tongue and English is acquired as their second language.

Advance Fee Fraud: is a confidence trick targeted at people to make them advance a sum of money with the hope of getting a significantly higher sum.

Forensic Analysis: is a careful analysis of the evidence in the simulation log files to provide insights on what happened.

Digital forensics: A branch of Forensic science that refers to the application of a broad spectrum of scientific investigation to answer questions of interest to a legal system. Also known as computer forensics, it seeks to confirm the state of digital artifact such as an electronic document (e.g. an email). Of particular significance is the notion of authentication that is, establishing or confirming the veracity of claims made by or about a subject.

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