Advance Fee Fraud
Advance fee fraud is a well-established scam that purports to offer the opportunity to earn a substantial sum of money for allowing funds to be transferred to your account and then passing on a proportion of these to another party, keeping the remainder as your commission. The approach can be made by letter, fax, Email or telephone and invariably claims to be from a high ranking government or bank official and may appear genuine if taken at face value. The scams prey on victims' self esteem and often claim that you have been recommended by a business contact as a highly respected and trusted individual with high integrity. Victims of this fraud are repeatedly coerced to part with sums of money in order to help the transfer process and as the fraud progresses, a considerable amount of money can be lost. The promised transfer, of course, never arrives.
How can I recognise an advance fee fraud letter/Email?
- Letters/Emails usually contain many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- The sum involved is usually between 20 and 35 million US Dollars.
- The victim is offered around one third of the total amount as a reward for helping to "transfer" the money.
- The source of the funds is usually linked to some form of contract or unclaimed funds.
- Secrecy is said to be essential.
Do these scams originate from any particular country?
Generally, these scams originated from West Africa, but South Africa and Spain have both recently begun to feature.
Why aren't the police doing something to stop this scam?
The scam is extremely widespread and the criminals are operating outside the jurisdiction of the British authorities. Nevertheless the Police and NCIS in the UK do a lot of work in this area once a victim has been identified. Work is also ongoing with Internet Service Providers to filter out emails from general circulation.
Why have I been targeted as a potential victim?
Thousands of these scam letters are randomly distributed every day to any Email or other address that can be found. You will not have been personally identified as a potential victim.
How can people fall for these scams?
Sadly, it is often people who can least afford it who are tempted into taking part in something that promises to offer easy money. It is a temptation that some people will be unable to resist.
Surely, as soon as money is required up front, you can back out?
Yes, but the amount of money initially requested can be relatively small in comparison with the ultimate amount offered. Subsequent demands will gradually rise until the point is reached where the victim no longer has the funds available and often borrows extra money on the premise that once the "final" payment has been made, the full transfer will take place. Once locked into this situation, people are often reluctant to admit to themselves that they have been duped.
What happens if I refuse to pay?
Once an initial payment has been made the criminal will continue to put pressure on the victim to make further payments. These criminals are professionals and are expert in appealing to victims' consciences. They have even been known to pose as genuine officials investigating the original fraud and manage to extract even more money from the hapless victim.
How can victims possibly fall for this scam?
It can be summed up in one word: greed.
If I don't respond to the letter, will I be in any danger?
Many thousands of these scam letters have been distributed. The vast majority are ignored and no harm has come to the recipients. There have been isolated occasions where victims have attempted to recover their money by going abroad to meet the perpetrators and have ended up being assaulted.
What should I do if I receive one of these letters?
If you are contacted by Email, send a copy to the internet service provider from where the Email originated. These should be addressed to "abuse@[provider name, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com] By doing this the internet service provider can terminate any accounts that abuse their systems.
I have already responded to one of these letters. What should I do?
Contact your local police.
Am I breaking the law by becoming involved in one of these scams?
This depends very much on the individual circumstances. The alleged origin of the funds is usually dubious to say the least and you might be viewed as entering into a conspiracy to defraud. However, most victims simply lose a considerable amount of money.
What are the chances that I will receive one of these scam letters?
If you are a professional person and/or your contact details are in the public arena, you probably stand quite a high chance of receiving one.
Is there anything else I should be aware of?
Ignore anything that seems too good to be true - it probably is!
Put yourself in the letter writer's shoes. Why on earth would you trust a complete stranger with handling millions of dollars?
The circumstances described in the letter surrounding the source of the funds is suspicious, to say the least. Avoid taking risks with anything that might be illegal.
Where can I get more information on this type of fraud?
Please see the link below.
The Metropolitan Police fraud alert (External Link)