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Nigeria Scam Still Draws Victims On – and Offline
Those concerned about the myriad of online scams that pop up on a regular basis would do well to look out for the common mail scam known as the Nigerian mail scam or 419 scam. Named after Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal Code and also known as Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), Act 419 combines impersonation fraud with advance fee fraud and can be obtained by post, fax or email. The letter usually offers the recipient a percentage of a large sum of money in exchange for the recipient’s permission to “help” transfer the amount through their own bank account and borrow money for the sender’s “purpose”. It may seem like a scam to most (and it is), but it has tricked countless people into giving up money and personal information.
According to the US State Department, the Nigerian letter may contain the following or similar text:
“After consultation with my colleagues and based on information gathered from the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, I am pleased to propose a confidential business transaction for mutual benefit. My colleagues have the means to transfer $35,500,000 to the account of a foreign company for our benefit. This the amount is the result of an overbilled contract that was concluded, commissioned and paid by a foreign contractor about two years ago. Therefore, we are asking for your help to transfer this money to your account. it can only be transferred to a foreign account, it is forbidden to operate a foreign account as a public servant, sharing the total amount is done as follows:
30% to the account owner (you)
60% for us
10% to settle any additional costs
“We will start the money transfer immediately as soon as you send the following documents/information to the above fax number.
1. Four signed and sealed copies of the company’s letterhead and invoices
2. Name, address and fax number of the banker
3. Account number and name of the beneficiary.
“Please remember that this is a completely private and personal transaction, unofficial, and must be treated with complete secrecy and confidentiality.”
After all the talk about how risky it is to share personal information with anyone online, you’d think that no one would fall for a letter asking them to send their bank and company information, but it’s estimated that this scam is causing a loss. millions of dollars a year. Additionally, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), once the victim stops sending money, the victim’s personal and banking information is used to drain bank accounts and credit cards. Some victims were even lured to Nigeria where they were jailed and some people were killed for participating in this scam.
According to the State Department, little progress has been made in prosecuting the perpetrators of 419 fraud. Some reasons for this:
1. Only 5-10 percent of AFF victims report being scammed, probably because victims don’t want to admit they were scammed or participated in the situation.
2. Victims may believe that they can recoup their losses if they continue to cheat.
3. Victims may believe that if they report the fraud, they will be prosecuted as an accomplice under US law. At least one US court has upheld civil forfeiture of proceeds attributed to AFF.
4. Sections 5 and 6 of the Nigerian Presidential Decree of April 1995 make it an offense for a victim to receive and/or possess a fraudulent letter. This may deter victims from returning to Nigeria to assist in the pursuit of these criminals.
The FBI recommends taking specific steps to avoid becoming involved in a notorious international scam:
1. If you receive a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or bank details, do not respond in any way. Send the letter to the US Secret Service or the FBI.
2. If you know someone who is mailing in one of these programs, encourage them to contact the FBI or US Secret Service as soon as possible.
3. Be skeptical of individuals posing as Nigerian or foreign government officials who ask for your help in depositing large sums of money in foreign bank accounts.
4. Do not believe that he promises large sums of money for your cooperation.
5. Keep your account details safe.
Unfortunately for the victim, once money or products are sent to Nigeria, it is almost impossible to reverse the damage or catch the perpetrator. If you receive anything resembling a Nigerian mail scam by fax, email, or US mail, do not respond to the sender and contact the appropriate law enforcement agencies as soon as possible.
For more information and a detailed description of how the scam works, visit http://www.state.gov/www/regions/africa/naffpub.pdf.
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