Advanced Fee Scams

By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyright 2001

Advance Fee Scams are exactly as the name implies - a fraud in which the victim is persuaded to voluntarily remit some sort of fee in anticipation of receiving something of value. Once Freddy the fraud feasor gets their money, he will continue to persuade them to send more money until the victim cannot, or will not, send more.

As with so many swindles, these tend to follow the, "load, reload, recovery" format. The victim pays money, then they pay more money and continue until they get suspicious. Questions result in excuses, concern brings out indignance, contact is usually broken off, phones are disconnected or unanswered, messages are not returned, weeks go by (or months), desperation begins to set in and then their phone rings - salvation!!

"Hello Mr. Smith, I am Joe Blow, Chief of Internal Operations, International Security Division in Belize. We are currently investigating Fraudmeister Inc and we have reason to believe that you have been victimized . . ."

Over the next few weeks, Joe Blow calls your Client, asks for information, may request copies of documents, provides information, encourages them to believe that their life savings will be recovered, and ultimately persuades them to remit funds in furtherance of the recovery action.

Whether it's the "You have won . . ." scam, the "Make money from home" scam, or the "419" scam, advanced fee swindles are all based upon persuading the victim to remit money "up front." Sometimes, it's as simple as a phone call - call 1 (900) ITS-SCAM to claim your prize. After talking to various operators, waiting on hold listening to musak, and drumming their fingers on the table (at $3.98 per minute) they find that they won some silly trinket.

The Nigerian Scam is a classic advanced fee fraud estimated to have netted billions of dollars since it began in the 1980's. The Nigerian government vociferously condemns the evil criminals who mastermind these scams, but I recently read that there has never been a single successful prosecution in Nigeria.

These scams are commonly referred to as 419 Fraud because that is the section of the Nigerian Penal Code that applies to fraud. The fraud is promoted by unsolicited e-mails and faxes - rather than attempt to outline them, I have included a collection of them for your review. As you will note, whether the solicitation comes from Nepal, Nigeria or Sierra Leon, the game always the same.

Here are some links to "real world" examples:

If approached by a Client who has been bilked by the 419 folks, do them a favor and encourage them to refrain from throwing money away on a lost cause. There is no Mareva Injunction in Nigeria and I'd not be trying to execute a Piller Order even if there was a way to get one - this scam is a Nigerian industry. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a potential Client is tell them when there is nothing anyone can do.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

© Copyright 2002 - Bill E. Branscum. All Rights Reserved.