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Old 08-29-2007, 09:52 AM   #1
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Default Advance fee fraud

An advance fee fraud is a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance relatively small sums of money in the hope of realizing a much larger gain. Among the variations on this type of scam are the Nigerian Letter (419 fraud or Nigerian money offer) and the Spanish Prisoner.

The 419 scam originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based economy of Nigeria declined. Several unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the west, and later the wider population. Scammers in the early-to-mid 1990s targeted companies, sending scam messages via letter, fax, or Telex. The spread of email and easy access to email-harvesting software made the cost of sending scam letters through the Internet inexpensive. In the 2000s, the 419 scam has spurred imitations from other locations in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud. The American Dialect Society has traced the term "419 fraud" back to 1992.

The advance-fee fraud is similar to a much older scam known as the Spanish Prisoner scam in which the trickster would tell the scam victim that a (fictitious) rich prisoner had promised to share (non-existent) treasure with the victim if the latter would send money to bribe the prison guards.

Insa Nolte, a lecturer of University of Birmingham's African Studies Department, stated that "The availability of e-mail helped to transform a local form of fraud into one of Nigeria's most important export industries."

Embassies and other organizations warn visitors to various countries about 419. Countries in West Africa with warnings cited include Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, C├┬┤te d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Togo, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Countries outside of West Africa with 419 warnings cited include South Africa, Spain, and The Netherlands.


This scam usually begins with a letter-form e-mail sent to many target recipients making an offer that will purportedly result in a large payoff for the intended victim. The stories behind the offers vary, but the standard plot is that a person or government entity is in possession of a large amount of money or gold. This person, for myriad reasons, either cannot access the wealth directly or is no longer in need of it. Such people, who are fictional or impersonated characters played by the scammer, could include the wife of a deposed African or Indonesian leader or dictator, a terminally ill wealthy person, a wealthy foreigner who had deposited money in the bank just before dying in a plane crash (leaving no will or known next of kin), a U.S. soldier who has stumbled upon a hidden cache of gold, a business being audited by the government, a disgruntled worker or corrupt government official who has embezzled funds, a refugee, and similar characters. The money could be in the form of gold bullion, gold dust, money in a bank account, so-called "blood diamonds", a series of cheques or bank drafts, and so forth. The sums involved are usually in the millions of dollars, and the investor is promised a large share, often forty percent or more, if they will assist the scam character in retrieving the money from holding and/or dispense of it according to the scam character's wishes. The proposed deal is often presented as a "harmless" white-collar crime, in order to dissuade participants from later contacting the authorities. Whilst most recipients do not respond to these emails, scammers are able to gain victims through sheer volume of messages.

In plane crash scams, fraudsters often use names of real people who died in air disasters; one con man used the names of Ronald and Joyce Lake, victims of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, in a scam letter received by Seattle Post-Intelligencer staff member Phuong Cat Le.

Many operations are professionally organized in Nigeria, with offices, working fax numbers, and often contacts at government offices. The victim who attempts to research the background of the offer will often find that all pieces fit perfectly together. Such scammers can often lure wealthy investors, investment groups, or other business entities into scams resulting in multi-million dollar losses. However, many scammers are part of less organized gangs or are operating independently; such scammers have reduced access to the above connections and thus have little success with wealthier investors or business entities attempting to research them, but are still convincing to middle-class individuals and small businesses, and can bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from such victims.

If the victim agrees to the deal, the other side will often send one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals. 419 scammers often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves. Often a photograph used by a scammer is not of any person involved in the scheme. Multiple "people" involved in schemes are fictitious; the author of the "WEST AFRICAN ADVANCE FEE SCAMS" article posted on the website of the Embassy of the United States in Abidjan, C├┬┤te d'Ivoire believes that in many cases one person controls many fictitious personas used in scams.

A scammer will introduce a delay or monetary hurdle that prevents the deal from occurring as planned, such as "in order to transmit the money, we need to bribe a bank official. Could you help us with a loan?" or "In order for you to be allowed to be a party to the transaction, you need to have holdings at a Nigerian bank of $100,000 or more" or similar. More delays and more additional costs are added, always keeping the promise of an imminent large transfer alive, convincing the victim that the money they are currently paying will be covered several times over by the payoff. Sometimes psychological pressure is added by claiming that the Nigerian side, in order to pay certain fees, had to sell all belongings and borrow money on their house, or by pointing out the different salary scale and living conditions in Africa compared to the West. Much of the time, however, the needed psychological pressure is self-applied; once the victims have put money in toward the payoff, they feel they have a vested interest in seeing the "deal" through. Some victims believe that they can cheat the con artist.

The essential fact in all advance fee fraud operations is that the promised money transfer never happens because the money or gold does not exist. The perpetrators rely on the fact that, by the time the victim realizes this (often only after being confronted by a third party who has noticed the transactions or conversation and recognized the scam), the victim may have sent thousands of dollars of their own money, and sometimes thousands or millions more that has been borrowed or stolen, to the scammer.

The spam e-mails perpetrating these scams are often sent from Internet caf├ęs equipped with satellite Internet. Recipient addresses and email content are copied and pasted into a webmail interface using a standalone storage medium, such as a memory card. Many areas of Lagos, such as Festac, contain many shady cyber caf├ęs that serve scammers; many cyber caf├ęs seal their doors during afterhours, such as from 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM, so that scammers inside may work without fear of discovery.

Nigeria also contains many businesses that provide false documents used in scams; after a scam involving a forged signature of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in summer 2005, Nigerian authorities raided a market in the Oluwole section of Lagos. The police seized thousands of Nigerian and non-Nigerian passports, 10,000 blank British Airways boarding passes, 10,000 United States money orders, customs documents, false university certificates, 500 printing plates, and 500 computers.

During the courses of many schemes, scammers ask victims to supply bank account information. Usually this is a "test" devised by the scammer to gauge the victim's gullibility.

Scammers often request that payments be made using a wire transfer service like Western Union and Moneygram. The reason given by the scammer will usually relate to the speed at which the payment can be received and processed, allowing quick release of the supposed payoff. The real reason is that wire transfers and similar methods of payment are irreversible, untraceable and, because identification beyond knowledge of the details of the transaction is often not required, completely anonymous.

Telephone numbers used by scammers tend to come from mobile phones. In C├┬┤te d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) a scammer may purchase an inexpensive mobile phone and a pre-paid SIM card without submitting subscriber information. If the scammers believed they are being traced, they throw their mobile phones into wastebaskets and purchase new mobile phones.

In Benin Nigerians operate scams with Beninese cooperating in the schemes.

Some crime syndicates employ fraudsters in the United States who conclude "deals" or threaten victims who try to leave deals.


In 2004, fifty-two suspects were arrested in Amsterdam after an extensive raid. An Internet service provider had noticed the increased email traffic. None was jailed or fined, due to lack of evidence. They were released in the week of July 12, 2004.

On November 8, 2004, Nick Marinellis of Sydney, Australia, was sentenced to 4 1/3 to 5 1/4 years for sending Nigerian 419 e-mails.

In October 2006 the Amsterdam police launched Operation Apollo to fight internet fraud scams operated by West Africans and notably Nigerians. Following this investigation police have arrested 80 suspects, most of them from Nigeria, and seized from their homes lists of email addresses, as well as fake documents. On June 16, 2007 111 people were arrested for being in The Netherlands illegally and suspicion of fraud, although their implication with the email scams is yet unknown.

Authorities in Nigeria have been slow to take action and for many years nothing was done. Nigeria has a reputation for criminals being able to avoid convictions through bribery and rumours abounded of official connivance in the scams. In 2003 however the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was charged with tackling the problem. A couple of success stories including convictions in a large 419 case were reported in 2005.


Victims of the fraud often fall directly into crime by "borrowing" or stealing money to pay the advanced fees, thinking an early payday is imminent.
  • Former Alcona County (Michigan) Treasurer Thomas A. Katona was sentenced to 9-14 years for his embezzlement of more than US$1.2 million in county funds in a Nigerian fraud scheme, which represented half of the county's budget for that year.
  • Another example of this was Robert Andrew Street, a Melbourne-based financial adviser, who fleeced his clients for over AU$1 million which he sent to the scammers in the hope of receiving US$65 million in return. Eventually the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigated the victim, who had now become a conman himself.
  • Another example was a bookkeeper for Michigan law firm Olsman Mueller & James who in 2002 emptied the company bank account of US$2.1 million in expectation of a US$4.5 million payout.
  • John W. Worley fell for a Nigerian scam and was convicted of taking money under false pretenses.
  • According to Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant, Mark Whitacre defrauded Archer Daniels Midland, a food products manufacturer for which he was a division president, embezzling US$9 million during the same period of time that he was acting as an informant for the FBI in a price fixing scheme that ADM was involved in. His illegal activities in trying to procure funds for payment of his supposed Nigerian benefactors cost him his immunity in the price-fixing scandal, according to Eichenwald's book, The Informant. Eichenwald lost his credibility, his job, and his career in journalism because of lying about his payments to a source in a recent case. James Lieber, author of Rats in the Grain and an attorney, also wrote a book about Whitacre in which he disagreed with Eichenwald's conclusions about Whitacre and the Nigerian scam.


The United States Federal Trade Commission has issued a consumer alert about the Nigerian scam. It says:

"If you receive an offer via email from someone claiming to need your help getting money out of Nigeria — or any other country, for that matter — forward it to the FTC at"

The United States Department of the Treasury maintains an email address to which the public may send 419 related documents when they have incurred no financial loss. These emails are archived to assist in future investigations.

If there is a financial loss, people are asked to file a Financial Loss complaint form online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
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Old 08-26-2008, 06:49 AM   #2
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Hello Everyone,

I hope I am not intruding at all by writing this thread. If I am, please feel free to have a moderator remove it.

I am in search of stories from victims of 419, Check Washing, Black Currency, and other related fraud cases. I have setup a page of instructions if you are a victim that wishes to share your experience. These stories will be archived in hopes of preventing other people from becoming future victims. Public Education is the key in fighting these kind of scams!

Click Here if you wish to visit the page I have setup to post your story.

If anyone wishes to email me their story instead, you may do so at

Thank you for the forum, I can see myself finding many interesting things to read that your organization has posted.

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Old 09-12-2011, 07:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Advance fee fraud

I have been getting these emails for months now and I have a list of the emails in my contacts. They are pushy and tiring. These people will not take no for an answer even when I tell them I dont believe it and wont send them any money. They need to be stopped.
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Old 09-13-2011, 09:21 AM   #4
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Default Re: Advance fee fraud

This old scam continues unfortunately.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:45 PM   #5
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