I receive e-mails trying to scam me using the criminal-proven “advanced fee fraud” almost every day.
This long-time and highly successful swindle is known by many names — the “advanced fee scheme,” the “Nigerian scam,” or the “4-1-9 fraud” — but whatever it is called, the basic elements are often the same.
According to the United States Secret Service, here is how it works: An individual or company receives a letter, fax or e-mail from an alleged “official” representing a foreign government or agency. An offer is made to transfer millions of dollars in “over invoiced contract” funds into your personal bank account. Then, you are encouraged to travel overseas to complete the transaction.
You are requested to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking information and telephone/fax numbers, and you receive numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logos testifying to the authenticity of the proposal.
Eventually you must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes. Other forms of the scam include COD of goods or services, real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices, beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award, and paper currency conversion.
Here is the customary scenario of this very creative and crafty sham: The victim is enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses to share in a multimillion dollar windfall of profits for doing absolutely nothing. In almost every case, there is a sense of urgency. The victim is enticed to travel to Nigeria or a border country.
There, are many forged official looking documents. Most of the correspondence is handled by fax, e-mail or though the mail. Blank letterheads and invoices are requested from the victim along with banking information. Any number of Nigerian fees are requested for processing the transaction, with each fee purported to be the last required.
The confidential nature of the transaction is emphasized. There are usually claims of strong ties to Nigerian officials. A Nigerian residing in the United States, London, or other foreign venue may claim to be a clearing house for the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Offices in legitimate government buildings appear to have been used by impostors posing as real occupants or officials.
A Quick Security Tip: Although this swindle is generically called the “Nigerian scam,” the letters, faxes, and e-mails could also originate from other countries, so, please, be on alert.
What can you do to help defend yourself from this hideous deception?
Here are some ideas suggested by the National Fraud Information Center: Beware of calls, letters, e-mails or faxes purporting to be from a government official in Nigeria or another country, asking for your help to place millions of dollars of overpayments in an overseas bank account.Resist temptation. Despite the promise of generous compensation for your cooperation, the purpose of this scam is to take money out of your account, not put millions into it.If you respond to the solicitation, you will be asked to pay a never-ending series of fees or expenses before the funds can be transferred to your account. Unfortunately, the millions never materialize.Guard your bank account and other information carefully. Even if you don’t send money, all a crook needs is your bank account and routing numbers to withdraw funds from your account.Do not consider traveling to meet the person to discuss the offer. Victims who have been lured to the foreign country or have gone to investigate what happened to their money, have been robbed, held for ransom, and even murdered!Report these types of money scams to law enforcement authorities.
For more details about this sly hoax, check the United States Secret Service website at www.secretservice.gov and the National Fraud Information Center site at www.fraud.org.
My Final Thoughts: This deceitful deception is still a flourishing scourge. These clever thugs are always coming up with new variations on this basic time-proven fraud.
Some crooks, for example, have claimed to be former Iraqi government officials needing help to transfer millions of dollars out of Iraq. On face value, it would seem that no one would ever enter into such a conspicuous scam, but unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the United States Secret Service in general receives about 100 telephone calls from victims/potential victims, and 300-500 pieces of related correspondence, per day!
Be alert and aware of these cunning criminals, and don’t fall for their crafty con.
Note: If you manufacture or distribute any security, safety, emergency preparedness, homeland defense or crime prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2008 by Bruce Mandelblit
“Staying Safe” with Bruce Mandelblit is a regular column for the readers of NewsMax.com and NewsMax.com Magazine.
Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His email address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer.
Bruce writes Staying Safe, a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention.
Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky colonel — the state’s highest honor — for his public service.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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