How to Spot and Avoid Nigerian 419 Fraud
I recently received an email from Mr. Abumani Ali of the Bank International Du Burkina Faso. An unfortunate client of the bank was killed in the Concord plane crash in 2000. The client left an unclaimed balance with the bank of $12.8 million. Mr. Ali was offering me 30% of this sum if I would present myself as the next of kin and offer my bank account to receive the funds. What a deal! Nearly 4 million dollars for nothing...show me the money!!!
Wouldn’t you like to make millions of dollars for doing nothing more than offering your bank account to receive a deposit? It’s better than winning the lottery. Remarkably, thousands of people each year fall prey to this time-worn scam that preys on our basic human attraction to easy money.
“Advance fee fraud,” or “419 fraud,” has been used for years to bilk unwary individuals across the world of billions of dollars. The scams are known as 419 fraud after the section of the Nigerian Criminal code that outlaws the practice. The basic premise is that one is convinced to advance a relatively small amount of money in the hope of receiving a much larger payout later. Typically a person is offered 20 to 40% of a multi-million dollar sum if he or she helps in getting the money out of Nigeria or some other country. With it relatively clear from the outset that the money is ill-gotten, those taken advantage of by the scheme are often hesitant to report their losses when it becomes apparent that they’ve been taken.
As in the offer I received, targets are often told that they are the beneficiary of an inheritance or are invited to impersonate a beneficiary of a large unclaimed estate. Sometimes they are told that they won a lottery jackpot but must pay an administrative fee to claim the prize.
A recent variation of the scam involves the usual e-mail requesting assistance in transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria, but this fraud is much more sophisticated. The recipient of the email is directed to open a bank account at a Suffolk England Bank and is provided a link to the bank's website. After clicking the link, the victim is directed to a professional-looking bank website which appears to be that of Suffolk England Bank. However, it is actually a replica of the true bank site. Within hours after opening the account, a balance of millions of dollars appears to have been deposited in the victim's account.
When attempting to transfer or withdraw funds from the account, the victim receives a notice requiring certain "fees" to be paid. The victim is then instructed to wire transfer the fees to Africa. If the victim makes an inquiry concerning the wire transfer, they are given instructions for a Bank of China branch in London and provided some reason justifying why the Suffolk England Bank cannot handle the transfer. Review of the wiring instructions indicated the funds are actually being transferred to the Bank of China in Beijing.
According to Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations , a Dutch investigative company that focuses on 419 fraud, almost US $3.2 billion was stolen by advance fee fraud scammers in 2005. U.S. victims coughed up $720 million of that total. It’s estimated that as many as 250,000 people are employed in the 419 fraud ‘industry.’
The U.S. Secret Service has set up a task force addressing Nigerian "Advance Fee Fraud" schemes and encourages you to report the fraud if you have been victimized. 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.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also warns that "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 firstname.lastname@example.org." The US Department of the Treasury is also interested in combating these 419 scams, and you can forward copies of suspicious emails on to email@example.com.
You can also report 419 Fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) , a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). IC3 receives, develops, and refers cyber crime criminal complaints.
A number of websites are dedicated to combating 419 Fraud . Some maintain lists of sample scam emails , commonly used email accounts, and fictitious bank/company websites used to facilitate fraud.
There are also a number of websites dedicated to ‘scambaiting’ – the attempt to turn tables in the 419 scammers. These sites contain amusing chains of correspondence between the scammers and very creative scambaiters.
Above all remember the golden rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it is!!
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