Introduction to advance fee fraud scams

General information on specific scams.
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Hans Neesantoes
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Introduction to advance fee fraud scams

Post: # 7Post Hans Neesantoes »

Advance fee fraud scams are also known as AFF and 419 scams (named after the section of the law in Nigeria which makes it a crime). Some people call them Nigerian scams but they are not limited to just Nigeria, they come from many different countries, where scammers can work anonymously.

Advance fee fraud scams are exactly what the name says: Scams where there will be fees that must be paid in advance before the victim receives some sort of promised (in reality non-existent) reward. The fees are often said to be for a lawyer or barrister, court documents, registration or other formal payments, shipping charges, diplomat fees, bribes, or anything else a scammer may think up.

These scams can take many different forms where there is a promise of some sort of reward: usually it is a huge sum of money (millions of dollars), a consignment of gold or other valuables, but it can be a lottery win, a loan or even a pet or a job. For the purpose of this forum, we are splitting out some of the scam types such as Loan, Pet and Lottery scam into their own separate sub-forums and the Advance Fee Fraud forum will only cover the scams where the promised reward is an unexpected monetary one (an inheritance, compensation or similar).

AFF story types
The most common story types used in Advance Fee Fraud scams are:
  • Over-invoiced contract monies. The story claims that that a Government owes or paid into a bank account a large sum of money which belongs to a foreign national or overseas corporation in respect of contract fees. As the beneficiary has not claimed it, it will revert to the government. The scammer will claim to be a Government official or an employee from the bank and 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 will claim to be a bank official, who knows of an 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. They will say 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, usually posing as a lawyer, says that the victim is the lawful heir to a large fortune left by someone, with the same last name as the victim, who has recently died. In some instances, the scammer will actually know the real last name of the victim and will tailor his email to mention the name, but in others he will keep the details generic until he knows their name.
  • Widows, orphans or refugees. The scammer poses as a wealthy refugee, or the widow/son/daughter of a deposed dictator, who needs help claiming bank accounts or who has a trunk box full of valuables, such as cash, gold, or jewelry, which they need help in moving overseas.
  • Philanthropists, lottery winners 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 they die. The lottery winner version should not be confused with actual lottery scams, here the victim is told that the winner of a lottery is gifting them the money.
AFF common features
  • 419 scams often have common features that appear regardless of the type (and also appear in other types of scams).
  • An insistence of confidentiality, with the victim being told they must not tell anyone about the transaction. The scammer doesn't want to risk other people telling the victim it is a scam
  • A sense of urgency from the very first email. The scammer wants to steal from his victim before "common sense" kicks in and they realise how unbelievable his story is.
  • Other people are introduced by the scammer, such as bank officials, lawyers, couriers, security companies and diplomats. These other characters will often be the ones who ask for the fees, which distances the original character from them and can also act in confusing the victim and adding legitimacy.
  • 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 often does nothing with these details, but asks for them to appear legitimate and also to see how complaint the victim is.
  • The scammer claims to be with a government agencies or financial organizations, but the email address and telephone numbers do not relate to the organization (such as free Gmail addresses and mobile phone numbers).
  • Each fee is said to be the last and the scammer may claim to have paid some of the fee himself to build confidence with the victim and create a feeling of obligation.

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