Act Fast: Steps to Take If You Replied to a Scammer

Act Fast: Steps to Take If You Replied to a Scammer

Scams of Advance Fee Frauds: Fake lottery winning notifications, Money Transfers, Loans, Counterfeit Cashiers Checks:

If you have replied a letter, email or phone call regarding a lottery or sweepstakes winning, a loan, debt consolidation, a dating scam, a money transfer, inheritance from some dead leader in Africa or an unexpected cashiers check, then you may have already lost money or had your identity stolen. Here are the key steps to follow:

  1. DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE SCAMMERS! They are dangerous criminals. You can be physically injured and even killed by fraud criminals. Do not travel to meet them or "claim your winnings". Some people who traveled to Nigeria and South Africa been beaten, kidnapped, or murdered. CEASE communicating with immediately - DO NOT REPLY TO THEM AGAIN! DO not attempt to debate with them.  They will NOT give you your money back.  You must go to the police, see step 5)

  2. If you have given the scammers any personal information, such as name, address, phone number, passport number, driver's license number, bank account information, credit card information, etc., see this page, but also continue to step 3 below.

  3. Contact your bank - if you have sent money via a bank transfer or check, contact you bank and see if payment can be stopped.

  4. Contact your credit card company - if the scammers charged anything to your credit card, with or without your approval.

  5. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

  6. Contact your state attorney general to alert them to the scam or fraud activity.

  7. File your complaint with the FTC. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Click on the link at left or call the FTC's identity theft hotline toll-free at 1 (877) IDTHEFT or (877)-438-4338. The hotline is staffed by counselors trained to help victims and take their complaints. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps us learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that we can better assist you.

  8. Stay current with new scams as the emerge, so you don't have this happen again

Key Points to Know and Remember About Advance Fee Frauds:

What do the scammers want?

Lottery scam letters are sent out by the thousands and thousands every day. There are only two things the bad guys want: your money and your identity. Your identity is just as important or even more important than any money you send them, and they can get your identity when you open the very first letter if it contains a Trojan horse or spyware; scam letters often do.

How do the scammers trick their victims?

They will tell you whatever you want to hear. They will tell you whatever they feel you will believe. They will pretend to be lawyers, claims agents, bankers, law enforcement agents, people of high rank in the government, gaming officials, tax collectors, and any other title that will convince you they are good people.

Where are the scammers doing this?

Scammers (usually in Nigeria or Holland) work in hotel rooms, back rooms (called "boiler" rooms) and Internet Cafes. In their work rooms, cell phones may be piled on tables or on beds. Each cell phone has two different names taped on the back; the name of a scam victim and the name of the character the scammer is pretending to be. This allows the scammer to know what to say when you call him on the phone. The lies are based on the victim's name written on the tape and the phony name attached to that phone number. Each criminal in the fraud cell knows which one of them is corresponding with that particular victim, and knows what part to play. Each criminal may be working as many as 30 different scam names and fake titles.

What if they have a website, certificate of authenticity or send me a check?

All of these can be forged or faked. Anyone can purchase and register a domain name for about $9. the domain is the name of the web site, like "". Since there are no background checks, even the names used to register the domain and run the website can be fake.

Checks can be easily forged these days.  Certificates, letters and other documents can all be made on a computer to look as real as any.

Lottery winning notifications often link to websites that are supposed to be a bank, security company, courier service, or an online lottery website, all fake. Some scammers create a fake bank website. They tell the victim that their lottery winnings have been deposited in this bank, in the victim's name. They give the victim a user name and password to be able to see that the winnings are actually deposited in their "account". Of course, when the victim looks at the online account,  he/she will see a balance equal to the winnings or greater. Of course, the bank is fake and there is no money in an account. However, the victim is now told that they must pay fees or taxes to "release" the money.

The scammer has the victim Western Union, MoneyGram or gives the victim the name of a different bank name and account number to send the "fees". Once the victim sends the cash and the cash reaches the fraud criminal's bank account, the money is withdrawn and the account is closed. The criminal then gives the victim many false reasons for why the deposit did not release the money. The victim is told that even more money has to be sent for other (false) reasons.

How do these scams usually work?

Click here for a step-by-step description of how the scammers work their scams.

Examples of scam emails

Would you like to see actual examples of scam emails? 

And to see some of the names they use or confirm that one you received is a fake, check these pages:

Besides email, how to the scammers contact their victims?

We're discussing AFF scam emails, but the scammers will use any method to reach their victims, including:

  • Mail / Post
  • Fax
  • Phone
  • Chat rooms
  • Dating web sites
  • Matchmaking web sites
  • Mobile phone SMS (new)
  • Internet phone - VOIP (new)
  • Internet gaming (new)
  • Personal introduction
  • Web sites publishing general business contacts or for specific industries
  • Call centre / boiler-room
  • Door-to-door - in countries were an internet connection or sometimes phone or fax connections are not yet common circumstances.

If you would like a (more) detailed explanation of how the scammers in Nigeria operate, see this page.

More information:


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