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Nigerian Advance Fee Bank Scam 419 Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

Don't be fooled, many have lost money. If it sounds too good to be true, it is not true!!! -- Message on the Central Bank of Nigeria Website

Where some email worms have played on sex, and the 602P hoax played on fear, the Nigerian 419 scam plays on greed. This hoax (also known as the Advance Fee Fraud - The reference to "419" is to the section of the Nigerian Penal Code that makes these scams illegal) has quite an unusual appearance. It comes to the recipient as an official looking email or a letter typically from Nigeria making a business proposal. The essence is basically a money laundering scheme, asking that the victim deliver one large sum of money in order to receive an even larger sum, or that the victim provide a bank account number in order to facilitate the transfer of funds outside of Nigeria. One version of the scam involves an individual claiming to be a Nigerian civil servant, in possession of a large government overpayment, seeking a foreign bank account in which to hide the funds. For those who fall for the scam, inevitably, something goes wrong, a participating official demands more money or a bribe, and things continue to degrade. Victims have been known to get so suckered in as to travel to Nigeria to complete the deal, only to be confronted by men bearing automatic weapons asking the victim to hand over travelers checks. There are multiple variations of this scam.

This is no small scam; it has successfully relieved individuals of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.[Secret Service] [USPS] [Wash Post] Individuals who reported falling for this scam in 2002 lost on average $3,864.[IFCC p.3 ] One “sophisticated” American investor found himself relieved of $750,000.[Wash Post] Of the 16,164 complaints filed with the IFCC, only 74 individuals managed to lose money, however they managed to lose $1.6 million.[IFCC p.7] The US Post Office reportedly destroyed 2 million 419 letters on the docks of New York in 1998.[USPS] The Secret Service has established "Operation 4-1-9", has special staff at the Nigerian embassy working the case, and reportedly receives 13,000 complaints a month about the scam. [Wash Post]

If you are the recipient of this scam, you can contact the following offices:

US Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
950 H Street NW
Washington D.C. 20223
Fax: 202-406-5031

You can email the Secret Service via an online form or

Inspection Service Operations Support Group
US Post Office
Two Gateway Center, 9th Floor
Newark, NJ 07175-0001

In order to conduct due diligence to determine whether a potential business partner is legitimate, one can check the bona fides of a company by consulting a World Traders Data Report (WTDR) through a US Department of Commerce District Office. These are detailed reports prepared by embassy staff that provide information concerning "types of organizations, years established, principal owners, size, product line, and financial and trade references."[State] The Department of Commerce recommends not only that the company be verified, but also the particular transaction to ensure that a scam is not using a legitimate company for cover. Assistance in determining whether a solicitation is valid can be obtained from

US Department of Commerce
Office of Africa, Room 2037
International Trade Administration
Nigerian Desk Officer
Washington, D.C. 20230
Phone: 202-482-5149
Fax: 202-482-5198.




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