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By Security and Fraud Team
Nigeria, a small country on the coast of Africa, is the source of a scam costing victims millions of dollars.
This scam combines the threat of an impersonation fraud scheme with a variation on an advanced fee scheme. Typically, a letter or e-mail is sent to a potential victim. The source of the letter is Nigeria and its contents offer the victim an “opportunity” to share in a large sum of money. All the victim needs to do to claim their portion is help the sender illegally move the money out of Nigeria. Once that task is accomplished, the victim is assured, a percentage of the sum will be sent to them as a reward for the assistance.
Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria. In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss. Once the victim stops sending money, the perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks that they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances.
While such an invitation impresses most law-abiding citizens as a laughable hoax, millions of dollars in losses are caused by these schemes annually. Some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will along with losing large sums of money. The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label “419 fraud.”
Criminals often look for easy targets—those who will respond the letter or e-mail. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to simply not respond to the request. Additionally, you should send the letter or e-mail to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.
If you know someone who is corresponding in one of these schemes, encourage that person to contact the FBI or U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible.
Bottom line? Do not ever believe a promise of large sums of money for your cooperation, whether the request originates in Nigeria or elsewhere. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Receive a scam letter? Report it!