Advance Fee (419) Fraud
Article regarding Advanced Fee Fraud, a.k.a 419 fraud a.k.a Nigerian fraud. How the scam works and how to avoid it.Advanced Fee Fraud or 419 Nigerian fraud as it is often dubbed, is a potentially devastating scam to the victim since it has the potential to sucker its unfortunate victims out of thousands of dollars, and leave them severely depressed. This article outlines what 419 fraud is, what variants it takes and most importantly how to avoid it.
A Brief Outline...
Essentially, Advance Fee Fraud, or 419 fraud is a scam typically initiated by email by a scammer whereas the recipient (the victim) is given some explanation as to why they are the beneficiary to [typically] a large amount of money. The reasons as to why the victim will be rewarded the money can vary, and we look into such variants later on in this article, but the victim is told to respond via email if they are interested, which of course anyone not aware of this scam would be. Upon communicating with the scammer, usually solely through email (though it is not unheard of to be contacted via telephone) it will inevitably transpire that the victim must first pay the scammer (or someone else) a smaller amount of money before they can receive the much larger cash sum. Upon payment, this fee will turn into a series of smaller payments which the victim must first pay in order to receive the larger cash sum.
The reasons for payment the scammer provides to the victim will again vary depending on the variation of 419 scam being used, and again we will look into them later in the article. Of course the large cash sum initially promised to the victim never existed, and the scam ends either when the victim refuses to pay any more demands for money or the scammers run out of excuses to send to the victim to get further cash. At this point communication between the scammer and victim will cease and the victim will be left without the money they paid. Often this can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The only variation of 419 fraud that does not follow this template is the romance/friendship variant, where instead of a large cash payout, the victim is baited with a friendship, platonic or otherwise. As always though, the scammer will soon request money from the victim.
Advanced Fee Fraud scams as we know them started during the rapid growth of the Internet in the 1990’s, but the general template the scammers utilise was generated much, much earlier – and not through emails either, but through letters and faxes. One of the original variants of this type of scam was referred to as the "Spanish Prisoner" scam where the victim received a letter or fax about a wealthy prisoner who needs to raise money to be released from prison, and for various reasons cannot cough up the money themselves. The victim is lured into paying for all or some of the “bail” money on the promise they will receive a much larger cheque once the prisoner is released. Inevitably, the victim is told problems have arose that requires more money to sort out, and the victim is then taken on a downward spiral where the scammers ask continually for further payments, until the victim realises it’s a scam or runs out of money.
This was one of the original templates for the scam that had its heyday before the Internet made it so much easier and cheaper for scammers to reach so many more potential targets.
During the late nineties, Advanced Fee Fraud exploded.
It is a fact that the vast majority of these scams originate in African nations, especially Nigeria. In fact Nigerian examples are so common they have their own name – 419 scams. 419 is the section in the Nigerian criminal code that deals with the crime – obtaining property by false pretences.
There are multiple red flags that users can look out for when spotting these types of scams.
Lack of personal information: The scammers have the ability to get your email address, but not your personal information. This is why many emails will just address you as Sir or not at all, which seems strange since it was you that was hand picked to receive the money the email is promoting.
The promised funds: Nearly all the emails promise large amounts of money, and nearly all measure the money in USD (United States Dollars) as this is the usual mark scammers target. Typical amounts range from 300,000 USD to 5 million USD.
Money wire/Cheque Cashing: Many people associate cheque cashing scams or money wire scams with Advanced Fee Fraud when they are technically different. However, it is worth mentioning that this is a good way of determining if various emails are genuine. Avoid cashing cheques or accepting money transfers from scammers. If scammer request payment through Western Union or MoneyGram you should always decline.
Country of Origin: Nigerian scams (especially the older ones) make no attempt to hide their African origins. Be extremely sceptical of emails that are from Nigeria or other African nations. One possible reason these scams persist in saying they are from Africa is because the author knows his English is not good enough to make anybody believe he is from an English speaking country.
Grammar: Emails that are not legitimate will typically have very bad grammar and spelling mistakes.
Request for Payment: Even if the initial email you receive does not contain any requests for payment, further emails will. As soon as you receive a request for payment, be it a courier fee, a release fee or a security fee, throw the email away.
Web Based Emails: Many scams, despite supposedly being from medium to large businesses, will use free web based mail for replies. This is something that tends to (rightly) raise suspicions since legitimate businesses will use their own web domain after the @ symbol instead of using web mail like yahoo, gmail or hotmail.
Government Officals from Africa Many of the templates used by 419 scammers will include them impersonating government or banking officals from African nations. The term "barrister" is used quite a lot.
Sense of Urgency This is used to increase the chance of someone not doing research and concluding it is a scam. The scammers will make you act quickly like claiming a government is after the money they are so desperately trying to get into your account.
419 scams refer to the plethora of variants originating from Nigeria, and the most popular is the one that claims that a [ex-] politician in Africa (or family member or legal staff) needs to get money out of the country before the corrupt Government retains it, and the only way to accomplish this is to transfer the money into a foreign bank account – namely yours. Contact is made (like with all variants) through an email sent to the victim, who is told in the email that they need to respond in order to receive the money. Once they respond they are told they need to pay either courier fees or security fees. Once the victim pays the demands continue, and the victim never seems the promised funds.
Other reasons why you have to pay the money could be for "bribes" or because you need to have a bank account in the country with a certain amount in.
Wealthy Businessman: Another 419 variant is that a wealthy businessman from typically an African nation had died and the victim will be contacted by some sort of “barrister” or someone in a legal profession who needs to rid the money out of the country, typically for the same reason as the above example – to avoid it getting confiscated by a corrupt African government. Equally as fabricated. These are often referred to as Nigerian Inheritance Scams.
Lottery Scams: These are considered Advanced Fee Frauds as they tell the victim they have won the lottery. The name of the lottery varies and can be one of hundreds of variants. In order for the monies to be released they need to pay a small fee. No lottery announces its winner through email, nor does any require money to pay the winner. This is usually pretty obvious to most people but this type of scam is one of the most successful. These are often referred to as Nigerian Inheritance Scams.
Spanish Prisoner Modern Day: Modern day variants of the old Spanish prisoner, where the victim is told they can pay money to release a prisoner, to receive a larger pay off, that is ultimately never received. Surpisingly, these scams now have evolved and rarely involve Spanish prisoners.
Next-Of-Kin Scams: These scams will report that a lost or distant relative has died and left you a fortune, though will require you to pay a release fee of some sort. These are often referred to as Nigerian Inheritance Scams.
Fake Job Offers: Fake job offers are a new and widely used example of fleecing money from users. Many fake job offers fall under the cheque cashing scams category, but many are also Advanced Fee Fraud, where the user is offered a great sounding job, pending they pay fees for a permit to work in either the country or profession that was being advertised.
Romantic Scams: Again a new variant of Advanced Fee Fraud, where the scammer poses as an attractive singleton looking to meet the victim but needs money for a variety of reasons, like plane tickets, hotel rooms or because they are trapped in their country. These are often referred to as Nigerian Romance Scams.
Fraud Rebate Scams: Very new, and extremely cheeky, these scams are directed at people who have already been the victim of 419 scams. Often the email lists these scams use is targeted, since the scammers may have a list of emails that they know belong to people who have already been scammed, giving this fraud a bigger success rate. The scammer claims to be some sort of compensation agency and promises the victim money back from the scam they were duped by. However, for the compensatory money to be released, the victim again has to pay some sort of release bond, or security fee, and again will receive none of the promised money. This type is particularly nasty as it targets previous victims. Typically previous victims who's email addresses have been stored will be contacted once again and told that they can get compensation for the money they lost. Once the victim responds, they will be requested for more money. The scammer often claims to represent varying government bodies or agenices.
Charity Scams: Usually prolific directly after major natural disasters, these scams pose as fake charities wanting the victim to give money. These are dangerous not because the victim loses too much money (victims are not going to donate too much since they are aware they will receive nothing in return) but because many people deduct the donations off their taxes, but since the charity was fake, if audited, the people could find themselves in trouble for tax fraud.
Military Scams: Much like the plot to Hollywood movie "Three Kings" comes the military example, where the victim will be contacted by some "military" presence who are currently deployed in a foreign company like Iraq or Afghanistan, (though variants have circulated with "civillians" as well) usually claiming they are part of the US, UK or Iraqi army and that they have come into money and need you help getting it out of the country. The usual template then follows where if the victim agrees then they will be pressured into paying various fees in order to get the money to them, where they are promised a large percentage after the transaction is completed. Again though, it is all false, and the victim loses the money they pay to the scammer.
How much does Advanced Fee Fraud really costs people?
Know one knows, because many people do not report them because they feel ashamed for being conned, or they do not disclose the full amount. The secret service estimated years back that the total loss in the United States is surely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so it is a massive problem. However, monetary value isn’t the only measure of loss involved with these scams. People have been duped into flying to Africa to collect their winnings and have been kidnapped and held to ransom. Several people in the last decade have even been murdered as a result of Advanced Fee Fraud, and some people have committed suicide upon learning they had been scammed.
What can you do and what is being done?
Considering the scale of these types of crimes, not nearly enough is being done, nor can be done. If you find yourself the victim of Advanced Fee Fraud you can report is to law enforcement. However, the Secret Service will only investigate if the loss exceeds 50,000 US dollars, as this is their minimum requirement for electronic crime. Local law enforcement like your local police can report the crime, but because these crimes are international, there is not a lot they can do for you.
Many people, including ex victims, have taken up scambaiting. This is where people will contact the scammers pretending to be legitimate victims, and try and waste as much time as possible. This is useful because it lowers the scammers success rate and they have less time to spend on real victims.
If you find yourself a victim of Advanced Fee Fraud, or are currently beings scammed, click here for more information.
Hi, I work in a resort in Australia, this is a very common email we get, almost everyday, just the names and email addresses are changed. Most of the time it is "a holiday for newly ordained priests", everything else is usually the same, a few rooms - never just 1 - must be able to pay by credit care and sometimes request that we include airfares as the client does not have a credit card, then they will reimburse us when we invoice for accommodation etc.
Here is the email:
Mr. Harrison Benedict by name from Glasgow in Scotland, i want make an accommodation booking for 6 members of Forensic Psychologist Association (F.P.S) we want to spend 5 days holiday in your hotel.
Here is the dates Arrival: 25TH March. 2012 and Date of departure : 30TH March. 2012
Number of guest: 6 Adults ( 4 men and 2 women)
Number of days: 5 days
Confirm the availability of the dates for the above dates and also provide the below total cost for the below options .
Total cost of 6 Single Rooms for the 5 days ...................
total cost of 3 Double Rooms for the 5 days ...................
Please i can only make the payment with my credit card in advance /Cheque payment
Mr. Harrison Benedict
Address : 1768 Hope Street
Glasgow, G3 3PN
|posted on 01/22/12|