Money Transfer and Bank Account Frauds - Nigerian and Dutch Scams

Money Transfer and Bank Account Frauds - So-called Advance Fee Fraud, "Nigerian", "419" and "Dutch" Scams

What is the "Nigerian letter" scam?

The Nigerian letter scam, as it is commonly called, is an "advanced fee" type of fraud. The Advance Fee Fraud (AFF) email is also known as '419',  named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code. It is sent unsolicited by mail, fax, or most commonly by email, in the form of a letter. Although letters come from around the world, the most common advance fee fraud letters relate to funds held in or taken from West African nations such as Nigeria.

Con artists claim to be officials, businesspeople, lottery officials or the surviving spouses of former government honchos in Nigeria or another country whose money is somehow tied up for a limited time. They offer to transfer lots of money into your bank account if you will pay a fee or 'taxes' to help them access their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive documents that look 'official.' Then they ask you to send money to cover transaction and transfer costs and attorney's fees, as well as blank letterhead, your bank account numbers, or other information. They may even encourage you to travel to Nigeria or a border country to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have even produced trunks of dyed or stamped money to verify their claims.

The letter explains that the writer needs to access a foreign bank account that can be used to transfer money through. The amount of money usually mentioned is upwards of US$10 million. All that's needed are details of your bank account and a few blank pages of letterhead if you're a company. In return you are offered an opportunity to share in the millions. Many refer to political events or major disasters, which is often how the writer came to have access to such funds.

The letter is allegedly written by a Prince, a top officer from a company or a quasi government corporation in an African state (the most common is Nigeria) or is from a family member of a deceased senior person from the government, business or military.

The emails are actually from crooks trying to steal your money or perpetrate identity theft. Inevitably, emergencies come up, requiring more of your money and delaying the 'transfer' of funds to your account; in the end, there aren't any profits for you, and the scam artist vanishes with your money. According to U.S. State Department reports, people who have responded to 'pay in advance ' solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, even murdered.

Here is a detailed, step by step anatomy of how the typical scam works.

Also see this page for key steps to take if you have replied to a scammer.

Variations of the Scam

Click on the links for more information and examples.

  1. Barristers with Disbursement of Money from Wills (Benefactor of a Will)
  2. Fake business proposal.  It follows much the same protocol, but the writer claims he just needs an established contact in your country. 
  3. Fake Grants
  4. Orphans and Widows of wealthy men
  5. Religious person wants to invest in your country
  6. Threat Scams or Extortion
  7. Contract Fraud (C.O.D. of Goods and Services, and ProForm Invoicing)
  8. Purchase of Real Estate
  9. Sale of Crude Oil at Below Market Prices
  10. Transfer of Funds From Over-Invoiced Contracts
  11. Clearinghouse 
  12. Conversion of Hard Currency (Black-Money)

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.

What happens next?

Nigerian fake email scam (the email is the scam, not any persons or companies named in the email)s usually involve a pair, consisting of a fake lottery and a fake bank (or attorney, securities company or courier service). In the fake bank scheme, the victim is notified of a lottery win and told the prize will be paid into a bank account at a private bank in London (or other city). The victim is told he or she must open an account there, usually with a minimum deposit of $5000. The victim is told he/she will be able to access his/her account with the winnings and the deposit in it within 24 hours of setting up the account and the "winnings" being sent.

Of course, that never happens. Once the victim opens an account and makes a deposit, the criminals simply pick up the cash wired to the UK as a deposit at a Western Union agent (such as a major post office) and move on to the next victim. There really was no bank account, or even bank, just as there was no lottery prize to start with. Except for the gang member who picks up the cash in London or other city, most of the members of the gang are based in Nigeria.

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

Avoid responding to these letters

If you do respond you will be asked to pay a processing fee of tens of thousands of US dollars before the "funds" can be lodged in your account. That's the last you will see of your money, or the promised share of $30 million.

We also do not recommend responding in jest. Responding merely confirms that your email account is active, and may mean you will continue to received such solicitations.

If you're tempted to respond to an offer, we suggest you stop and ask yourself two important questions:

  1. Why would a perfect stranger pick you ' also a perfect stranger ' to share a fortune with, and
  2. Why would you share your personal or business information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead, with someone you don't know?

And the U.S. Department of State cautions against traveling to the destination mentioned in the letters. According to State Department reports, people who have responded to these "advance-fee" solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.

More Information and News Stories

What to Do If You Receive a Scam Email

See this page for information about what to do, if you think you are the victim of a Nigerian scam.