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The Nigerian Advance Fee Scam has been around for quite awhile, but despite many warnings, continues to draw in many victims. In fact, the Financial Crimes Division of the Secret Service receives approximately 100 telephone calls from victims/ potential victims and 300-500 pieces of related correspondence per day about this scam!
Indications are that the advance fee fraud grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate.
The Nigerian Advance Fee Scheme (also known internationally as "4-1-9" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes) is generally targeted at small and medium sized businesses, as well as charities. This global scam (recently seen in Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the US) involves the receipt of an unsolicited letter purporting to come from someone who claims to work for the Nigerian Central Bank or from the Nigerian government. (The Central Bank of Nigeria denies all connection to those who promote this scheme.)
In the letter, a Nigerian claiming to be a senior civil servant will inform the recipient that he is seeking a reputable foreign company into whose account he can deposit funds ranging from $10-$60 million which the Nigerian government overpaid on some procurement contract.
The goal of the scam artist is to delude the victim into thinking that he or she has been singled out to participate in a very lucrative -- although questionable -- arrangement. The intended victim is reassured of the authenticity of the arrangement by forged or false documents bearing apparently official Nigerian government letterhead, seals, as well as false letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. The scam artist may even establish the credibility of his contacts, and thereby his influence, by arranging a meeting between the victim and "government officials" in real or fake government offices.
Once the victim becomes confident of the potential success of the deal, something goes wrong. The victim is then pressured or threatened to provide one or more large sums of money to save the venture. For example, an official will demand an up-front bribe or an unforeseen tax or fee to the Nigerian government will have to be paid before the money can be transferred. Each fee paid is described as the very last fee required. The scheme may be stretched out over many months.
Here is a sample of a letter a victim may receive:
(Note: The letter that is sent is all in capital letters.)
Attention: The President/CEO
Confidential Business Proposal
Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request for your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your accounts. The above sum resulted from an over-invoiced contract, executed commissioned and paid for about five years (5) ago by a foreign contractor. This action was however intentional and since then the fund has been in a suspense account at The Central Bank Of Nigeria Apex Bank.
We are now ready to transfer the fund overseas and that is where you come in. It is important to inform you that as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account; that is why we require your assistance. The total sum will be shared as follows: 70% for us, 25% for you and 5% for local and international expenses incident to the transfer.
The transfer is risk free on both sides. I am an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). If you find this proposal acceptable, we shall require the following documents:
(a) your banker's name, telephone, account and fax numbers.
(b) your private telephone and fax numbers -- for confidentiality and easy communication.
(c) your letter-headed paper stamped and signed.
Alternatively we will furnish you with the text of what to type into your letter-headed paper, along with a breakdown explaining, comprehensively what we require of you. The business will take us thirty (30) working days to accomplish.
Please reply urgently.
What should you do if you receive a letter like this?
The U.S. Secret Service has instructed anyone in the US who has lost funds because of this scam to forward appropriate written documentation to:
U.S. Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
950 H Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20001.
Or send e-mail using the Secret Service form or
direct to firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com
If you have received a letter, but have not lost any monies to this scheme, please fax a copy of that letter to (202) 406-5031.
If you are outside the United States, you should report it to your local authorities and send documention via fax to the U.S. Secret Service.
Be careful. This scam can be physically dangerous as well as dangerous to your finances. Victims are almost always requested to travel to Nigeria or a border country to complete a transaction. Victims are often told that a visa will not be necessary to enter the country. The Nigerian scam artists may then bribe airport officials to pass the victims through Immigration and Customs. Because it is a serious offense in Nigeria to enter without a valid visa, the victim's illegal entry may be used by the scam artists as leverage to coerce the victims into releasing funds. Violence and threats of physical harm may be employed to further pressure victims. In June of 1995, an American was murdered in Lagos, Nigeria, while pursuing a 4-1-9 scam, and numerous other foreign nationals have been reported as missing.
Recommendation: Avoid these scams like the plague! Don't let promises of large amounts of money impair your judgment.
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