The 419 Scam or Advance Fee Scam is a constant risk for our members and community. In short, this fraud requires you to advance money in anticipation of getting a more substantial sum in return.
The most common way for the 419 fraudsters to contact you is via email, but it can be on the phone or even regular mail.
Here is how it works:
You get an email from someone who claims that they are of some significant status. For example, the scammer might pretend to be a wealthy family member in a foreign country, officials, potential love interest, or the surviving spouse of a former government leader.
The story offered by these scammers can vary, but whatever story the person comes up with, they always have a large amount of money that they need to transfer into your bank account. So they ask to put it right into your bank account (it seems too good to be true because it is).
The amount of money offered is generally in the millions, making it a particularly attractive offer.
Of course, there’s a catch. You have to send small payments to cover fees or pay the taxes so that the person can get this tied up cash.
Once the funds have has been sent, the scammer will keep creating hurdles or obstacles that prevent them from sharing the money and will continue asking you for more money to pay fees.
They will try to get you to share your account details but won’t usually take the money out of your account immediately. Instead, they will save your bank information and sell them to other fraudsters months in the future. Eventually, they will wipe out all of the funds in the account.
These fraudsters can provide sophisticated documents with seals or stamps as well.
How can you protect yourself?
If you get an email request like this, do not respond to it. Instead, report it to the FBI and FTC.
While this scam is typically referred to as the “Nigerian Scam” it can come from different countries or not a country at all. You may get it from a business.
You can find a local FBI field office, or you can report to the FTC here.