"419", "Advance Fee Fraud" and "Nigerian Schemes"
"419" fraud has been around since at least the early 1980's, usually run under the noses of or with the complicity of Nigerian governments. It is also called "Advance Fee Fraud," the "Nigerian Connection," "Nigerian Letter" scams or just "Nigerian Fraud". The name 419 comes from the relevant section of the Nigerian criminal code. There has been a huge increase in the number of fraud attempts recently, partly because of the use of spam email. The annual losses from these schemes are into the hundreds of millions each year. Overall, billions of dollars have been taken from businesses and consumers. And at least one victim was murdered.
This is how 419 schemes typically work:
* An individual or company receives an email, letter, or fax from an alleged "official" representing a foreign government or agency (or via an Internet chat room);
* An offer is made to transfer millions of dollars into your personal or business bank account;
* You are encouraged to travel overseas to complete the transaction;
* You are requested to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking account information, telephone/fax numbers, etc.;
* You receive numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logo 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;
* The correspondance stresses the confidential nature of the transaction;
* In almost every case you are told the situation is urgent;
* Sometimes the criminals say they are acting on behalf of a charity;
The fraudulent business proposals presented are usually one of these:
* Transfer of funds from over invoiced contracts
* Disbursement of money from wills
* Contract fraud (C.O.D. of goods or services)
* Purchase of real estate
* Conversion of hard currency
* Sale of crude oil at below market prices
* Reshipment of merchandise (stolen goods)
For more information, see this 419 alert from the U.S. Secret Service.
Source: U.S. Secret Service web site
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