Advance Fee Fraud Scams

An introduction to advance fee fraud

Advance fee frauds are also known as 419 scams (after the section of the law in Nigeria which makes it a crime) or Nigerian frauds. They take many different forms, but are all characterised by the availability of a huge sum of money (millions of dollars) or a consignment of jewellery, gold, or other valuables. They are called advance fee frauds because they all involve the victim being asked to pay fees in advance. The fees are said to be for a lawyer or barrister, court documents, registration or other formal payments needed, courier or diplomat fees, or bribes.

If the victim pays the fee, there will always be another fee that needs to be paid before the money or consignment can be released, and this will continue until the victim realises it is a scam, or simply runs out of money to send. There is no consignment or huge sum of money – the entire story is a lie to get the victim to pay. We have set out the most common scenarios below but there are many variations. Please do not assume it’s not a scam just because you cannot see your precise circumstances below.

The most common types of advance fee fraud

  • Over-invoiced contract or unclaimed contract sum – the usual story is that the government owes or has paid into a bank account a large sum of money which belongs to a foreign national or overseas corporation. They have not claimed it and if nobody does so, it will revert to the government. The scammer will pretend to be a government official or an employee of the bank and will ask for the victim’s help in moving the money out of the country, for a percentage of the money. The victim will be asked to pose as the individual or company owed the money.
  • Unclaimed bank accounts – the scammer pretends to be a bank official who knows of a bank account which contains a huge sum of money. He will say that it belongs to an unknown foreign national or to someone who has died leaving no family, and that if it is not claimed, it will default to the government. The scammer asks the victim to pose as the account holder and claim the money, and says they will split the proceeds later.
  • Next of kin – the scammer says that the victim is the lawful heir to a large fortune left by a relative who has recently died. In some instances, the scammer is working from a mailing list he has bought, and can use the real last name of the victim as the name of the deceased. In other circumstances, the scammer relies on the victim either believing that this is a relative he has not heard of, or knowing he is not related to the deceased, but going along with it in order to claim the money.
  • Widows, orphans and refugees – the scammer poses as a wealthy refugee or deposed dictator (or the widow/son/daughter of one) who needs help claiming bank accounts or who has valuables such as cash, gold, or jewellery (usually said to be in a trunk box) that he needs help in moving overseas. The victim is asked to take delivery of the trunk box or consignment or to help claim the bank account, for a share of the proceeds. Sometimes, the scammer pretends to be in a refugee camp at the time they are emailing the victim to ask for help, and claims to be defenceless and in need of money for medical treatment for a relative.
  • Dying philanthropists or wealthy investors – the scammer pretends to have vast sums at his disposal and wants help either investing them or distributing them to charities in the victim’s country. The scammer will often pretend to be dying, usually of cancer, and wants to make amends for past bad acts before he dies.
  • Black money or wash-wash – the scammer tells the victim he has a huge sum of money in currency, but that it has been dyed black to disguise it and keep it safe, or marked or stamped in such a way as to conceal that it is currency. The scammer offers to share it with the victim if the victim will pay for the chemicals needed to clean the money. The victim will be invited to visit the scammer to see a demonstration of the money being cleaned. This is just sleight of hand, a magician’s trick, and there is no cleaning process involved. There is no money at all, it is all just black paper cut to size.

Common features of an advance fee fraud

  • There is a sense of urgency from the outset.
  • The scammer insists on confidentiality and the victim cannot tell anyone about the transaction.
  • Other people are introduced by the scammer to the victim, such as bank officials, lawyers, couriers, security companies and diplomats. Many of these will actually be played by the scammer himself, but sometimes, they will be played by his accomplice(s).
  • The scammer and his accomplices supply a great number of forged but official looking documents.
  • There is an early request for personal and detailed information from the victim, such as address, date of birth, bank account details, or identification such as a passport.
  • The scammer says he is with legitimate sounding government agencies or financial organisations but the email address does not relate to the organisation (e.g. a scammer pretends to be a bank but uses a free email account such as Yahoo).
  • The scammer uses mobile phone numbers rather than official company landlines.
  • Fake bank or lottery websites may be used to convince the victim that the scam is real, and the scammer may get an email address matching the fake site to add credibility.
  • Each fee is said to be the last and the scammer may even have claimed to pay some of the fee to build confidence with the victim.

More information on advance fee fraud

Metropolitan Police information on advance fee fraud

Metropolitan Police information on wash-wash scams

Canadian police advance fee fraud advice

FBI advice on advance fee fraud

Top ten signs of an advance fee fraud

Crimes Of Persuasion site information on stamped/marked/blackened currency scams

A victim’s account of a wash-wash scam

News items on advance fee fraud

New Yorker magazine article ‘The Perfect Mark’

Reports on wash-wash or black money being used in scams from the BBC News and Gulf News.

JS Online – Victim scammed for two years

Video from ABC News – an interview with a wash-wash scammer

Learn about scammers’ fake sites at aa419. Report scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Centre at IC3.

Examples of advance fee fraud emails

Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 4:07 AM

To the beneficiary of the consignment valued 11m USD.

Concerning your consignment which has been under the custody of UNITED NATION GHANA, I have personally secured your consignment as the agent in charge to deliver your consignment to your door step, I understand you very financial situation and disappointment you have gotten all this while, however I am here to make everything real and possible for you only if you will co-operate with me direct and personally in this transaction without consulting any third party.

This your consignment valued 11m usd has been opened by me with diamond cutter and the attachment is the sample of the funds, we only need to clean out the stamp and immediately the funds will be free and spend able, i know where we can get the chemical powder to clean the funds so what we need is to buy 50gramms of the chemical powder and i will use it to clean out $50,000.00USD then i will send some of the money to you so you can buy your ticket and come down to Ghana to meet with and the consignment from there we will proceed you and I, if you can not come down then I will use the money I cleaned out to buy more chemical and also hire cleaning machine to clean the whole funds and get them ready for transfer into your bank account in your country, with this level we will not lack money to finalize this transaction. If you have agreed to proceed with me then I will tell you how much the 50gramms of the chemical powder will cost and bear in mind that with the chemical powder all your problem is solved because any money you need will brought out from the funds.

I will give you my telephone number once i hear from you, thanks.
Mr.Hyms Okan
UN Diplomat

My Dear Beloved in the Lord,

My Name is Mrs.Daisy Abraham;A National of Malaysian who is married
tolateEngr.George Abraham who worked with the Shell Petroleum
DevelopmentCompany in Russia before he died in the year 2001
after a brief illnessthat lasted for only five days. We were married for
Seventeen years witha daughter (Lillian)who later died in a motor
accident. Before theUntimely death of my husband we were both born again
Christians. SinceAfter his death I decided not to remarry or get a
child outside my Matrimonial home which the Bible is against. When
my late husband wasAlive he deposited the sum of ($12,000,000.00 USD)
Twelve MillionUnited States Dollars with a Bank in Spain whose name
is withheldUntil we open up communication.

Recently Following my ill health, my Doctor told me that I may not last for
the next CoupleOf Months due to My cancer problem. The one that disturbs
me most is my inability to move Around. Having known my condition
I decided to donate this fund to aChristian organization (Church) that will
utilize this money the way IAm going to instruct herein, according to the
desire of my late husband Before his death.I don’t want a situation where
this money will be used in an ungodly Way.

This is why I am taking this decision. I am not
afraid of death Hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be
in the Bosom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that “the lord will fight my
case and I shall hold my peace”. I don’t need any telephone communication
in this regard because of my health and the presence ofmy husband’s
relatives around me always.I don’t want them to know about this development
With God all things are possible.As soon as I receive your reply I shall give
you the contact of the Bank.I will also issue you the Letter Of Authorization that
will verify you as the present beneficiary of this fund.I want you and

the Church toalways pray for me because the lord is my shephard,My
happiness is that Ilived a life of a worthy Christian.Whoever that Wants
to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and Truth.Please always be
prayerful all through your life. Any delay in your reply will give me room in
sourcing another individual for this same purpose.Please assure me that
you will act accordinglyas I Stated here in while i am Hopingto receive your
urgent reply through my email,
Have a Wonderful Day.
Your Sister in Christ,
Mrs Daisy Abraham.


Attn: Beneficiary

I am Lt. General James Morgan (Rtd), National Security Adviser to
President Federal Republic of Nigeria, ALHAJI MUSA UMARU YAR’ ADUA. I am
delighted to inform you that the contract panel, which concluded in Abuja
just released your name amongst contractors to benefit from the
Diplomatic Payment. This Panel was primarily delegated to investigate
manipulated contract claims, contracts and over-invoiced payment as the effect
has eaten deep into the economy of our dear country.

However, we wish to bring to your notice that your contract profile is
still reflecting in our central computer as unpaid contractor while
auditing was going on. Your contract file was forwarded to my office by
the auditors as unclaimed fund. We wish to use this medium to inform you
that for the time being Federal Government of Nigeria have stopped
further payment through bank to bank transfer due to contractors numerous
petitions to United Nations against Nigeria on wrong payment and
diversion of contract funds to different account.

In this case, we are going to send your contract part payment of One
Million, five hundred thousand United States dollars only to you via
diplomatic cash payment. Note that the money will be packaged as a
consignment which will be sealed with synthetic nylon and padded with machine.
Please you don’t have to worry for anything, as the transaction is 100%
risk free. The Diplomatic agents will accompany the box to your house
address. So all you need to do now, is to send to me your full contact
informations as stated below.

1. Your full name.
2. Mobile Phone #.
3. Company’s name, position and address.
4. Profession, age and marital status.
5.Copy of int’l passport/ drivers license.

However, the Diplomatic agents will call you immediately they arrive at
the airport in your country airport. Please kindly get back to me with
the above requested informations so that we can proceed.

Note: The diplomat does not know the original contents of the boxes.
What l declared to them as the contents is Sensitive Photographic Film
Materials and jewelries. I did not tell them that it is money, so do not
reveal it to them for security reason. If they call you and ask you the
contents, please tell them the same thing Ok. Confirm the receipt of
this message and send the requirements needed to conclude your
consignment delivery to your doorstep.

Please respond urgently because the diplomats would be scheduled to
leave as soon as we hear from you. Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,

Lt. General James Morgan (Rtd).
National Security Adviser to the President
Federal Republic of Nigeria