The scam has been used with fax and traditional mail, and is now prevalent in online communications like emails.Online versions of the scam originate primarily in the United States, the United Kingdom and Nigeria, with Ivory Coast, Togo, South Africa, Benin, the Netherlands, and Spain also having high incidences of such fraud.According to Cormac Herley, a researcher for Microsoft, "By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select." In Nigeria, scammers use computers in Internet cafés to send mass emails promising potential victims riches or romance, and to trawl for replies.
Although the vast majority of recipients do not respond to these emails, a very small percentage do, enough to make the fraud worthwhile, as many millions of messages can be sent daily.
To help persuade the victim to agree to the deal, the scammer often sends one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals.
This is the money being stolen from the victim; the victim willingly transfers the money, usually through some irreversible channel such as a wire transfer, and the scammer receives and pockets 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.
Some scammers have accomplices in the United States and abroad that move in to finish the deal once the initial contact has been made.