Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian side, to pay certain fees, had to sell belongings and borrow money on a house, or by comparing the salary scale and living conditions in Africa to those in the West.Much of the time, however, the needed psychological pressure is self-applied; once the victims have provided money toward the payoff, they feel they have a vested interest in seeing the "deal" through.One variant of the scam may date back to the 18th or 19th centuries, as a very similar letter, entitled "The Letter from Jerusalem", is seen in the memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq, a former French criminal and private investigator. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman's husband, and inquired about his health.
In exchange for transferring the funds out of Nigeria, the recipient would keep 30% of the total.
To get the process started, the scammer asked for a few sheets of the company’s letterhead, bank account numbers, and other personal information.
Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
He said he wanted to transfer $20 million to the recipient’s bank account – money that was budgeted but never spent.
Such people, who may be real but impersonated people or fictitious characters played by the con artist, could include, for example, the wife or son of a deposed African leader who has amassed a stolen fortune, a bank employee who knows of a terminally ill wealthy person with no relatives, or a wealthy foreigner who deposited money in the bank just before dying in a plane crash (leaving no will or known next of kin), and similar characters.
The money could be in the form of gold bullion, gold dust, money in a bank account, blood diamonds, a series of checks or bank drafts, and so forth.
An email subject line may say something like "From the desk of barrister [Name]", "Your assistance is needed", and so on.
The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it.
More delays and additional costs are added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive, convincing the victim that the money the victim is currently paying is covered several times over by the payoff.