Nigerian Scam - in Popular Culture

In Popular Culture

Due to the increased use of the 419 scam on the Internet, it has been used as a plot device in many films, television shows and books. A song, "I Go Chop Your Dollar", performed by Nkem Owoh, also became internationally known as an anthem for 419 scammers. The song was banned in Nigeria after many complaints, and Owoh was later arrested in 2007 in Amsterdam along with 111 other suspected 419 scammers in a seven-month-long investigation. Other appearances in popular media include:

  • In the 2007 Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score, Professor Farnsworth falls for a lottery scam, giving away his personal details on the Internet after he thought he had won the lottery. Later, Nixon's Head falls for a "sweepstakes" letter by the same scammers, while Zoidberg is taken by an advance-fee fraud.
  • In series 6, episode 3 of the BBC television series The Real Hustle, the hustlers demonstrated the 419 Scam to the hidden cameras in the "High Stakes" episodes of the show. The hustle involved claims of moving £500,000 to the victims' bank account from Sierra Leone but the victims needed to pay £5,000 for the paperwork in exchange for a bogus-bouncing check, with the promise that they can keep 20% (£100,000) of the funds, which never materializes.
  • In the Italian TV satirical program Striscia la notizia a reporter answers to the scammers' email message and fixes an appointment with them in an attempt to interview them. The interview concludes with the scammers escaping and the reporter and TV troupe running after them.
  • In the HBO comedy series Flight of the Conchords episode "The New Cup", the band's manager, Murray, uses the band's emergency funds for an investment with a Nigerian, Mr. Nigel Soladu, who promises to offer "1000% profit". However, it turns out that Nigel Soladu is a real person and the investment offer is legitimate. The band receives a 1000% profit, which they use to get bailed out of jail.
  • In an episode of NBC's series The Office, Michael Scott tries to sell his subordinates on what he does not realize to be a pyramid scheme. Toby Flenderson asks, "Didn't you lose a lot of money on that other investment? The email?", to which Michael replies, "You know what, Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the freaking country! Okay?"
  • In "The Sun Cow" episode of the Nickelodeon TV series Back at the Barnyard, Otis, Pig and Abby received an email from a Nigerian prince requesting for help, to which Abby replies with the farmer's credit card number, stating that the Internet does not lie.
  • In a 2009 episode of A&E documentary Intervention, a man habitually gives his family's money away to 419 scammers.
  • In the television series Sit Down, Shut Up, the teacher Stuart Proszakian sends money to a Nigerian scam despite the other teachers' warnings, but it transpire that there really is a Nigerian prince, and he thanks Stuart for the donation.
  • The Residents included a song called "My Nigerian Friend" in their 2008 multimedia production The Bunny Boy: "He said that he was hiding from the government, And said that he was dying and had to find a friend, He offered me some money, if he could use my name, I told him I liked bunnies, then he went away."
  • A segment of the 2008 This American Life episode Enforcers discusses scammers from Nigeria and a group of activists that try to scam the scammers.
  • In the 2009 episode of The Venture Bros. "Pinstripes and Poltergeists", Sgt. Hatred relates a past experience with a Nigerian scammer while attempting to introduce Dr. Venture to the concept of email, saying: "If it’s a Nigerian prince asking you to take twelve million dollars, he never sends it. Then you have to explain to your wife, who leaves you... for other reasons..."
  • In the video game Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard, the player character, will randomly receive an email from a Batarian, using the purported "Nigerian Princess" claim, substituting the alien race in place of Nigeria.
  • In the 2011 episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled "Oh Honey", a gullible cousin played by Katy Perry remarks: "Maybe I should feel weird about giving the guy my social security number, but the guy is a Nigerian prince!"
  • In the pilot episode, "The Nigerian Job", for Leverage, the group uses the reputation of the Nigerian Scam to con a deceitful businessman.
  • In Season 3 of popular TV series The Middle (TV series), Brick Heck receives an email from a Nigerian prince, not knowing it was a 419 scam, and joyously tells his parents, the "good" news.
  • The 2012 novel 419 by Will Ferguson is the story of a daughter looking for the persons she believes responsible for her father's death. A follow-up to earlier novels about con men and frauds (Generica and Spanish Fly), 419 won the 2012 Giller Prize, Canada's most distinguished literary award.
  • In the 2012 BBC Comedy series "Citizen Khan" the main character, Mr Khan, ignored an email from a fellow Mosque member, originally from Africa, informing Mosque members about a charity fundraiser thinking it was the Nigerian email scam.
  • In the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Nigerian 419 scam emails can be found on several computers throughout the game. One computer, in a top-security research network, contains an email expressing astonishment that the scams weren't caught by the security systems.
  • Ze Frank an Internet celebrity and video blogger, uses the texts from various Nigerian Scams letters and reads them to his audience as a bit. It can be seen also in one of his TED conferences.

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