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Advanced fee frauds

advanced-fee-fraudAdvance fee frauds are very common and vary in type, style and delivery but all are after the same thing – to get you to pay time and time again for   non-existent funds or goods.

The people who operate these scams are professional at it and will provide you with what appear to be plausible and realistic scenarios. They will not appear threatening or risky in the early stages as they need to gain your trust and confidence.

Advance fee frauds can start out with an unsolicited letter or email, and often progress to telephone calls. Most ask you to wire money because it is very difficult to trace. Wire transfers are in fact one of the common warning signs that an approach is an advance fee fraud.

Australian Insititute of Criminology has recently released a paper on advance fee fraud (risk factors for victimisation)

Advance fee fraudsters are experts in conning people by coming up with various reasons why you need to send money for things like legal fees, government charges, United Nations anti-terrorism or money laundering certificates. The requests for money start small and then invariably increase as they gain your confidence and commitment. There is usually an air of secrecy about the proposition so that you will not be inclined to ask friends or authorities for advice.

The scammers may refer you to others masquerading as banks or lawyers, and often use official looking logos on letters and emails.

Common types of advance fee frauds are:

Beneficiary funds: The scammer needs your assistance to get money out of a bank account located in another country. The scammers often spin you some sob sorry about needing assistance or that the rightful owner of the money has died and the money will be confiscated by government unless you act.

Lottery wins: The scammer claims you have won money in an overseas lottery. Often they use the name and logos of legitimate lotteries like El Gordo or UK National Lottery. But they also make up competitions using the names of legitimate companies like Yahoo or Shell. The letter or email often starts with “congratulations” and a request for personal information, including drivers license and bank account details, so they can confirm your identity and where to send your winnings. Be aware that this information can also be used for identity fraud to fool others. Read more about overseas lottery wins by clicking here.

Investment proposal: A government official or a representative of an investment company or a legal firm needs assistance to invest their or their client’s money offshore. The emails can be a few short paragraphs giving scant details and asking you to contact them. More often the emails detail some intrigue about how the money was gained, why it needs to be shifted offshore, and why the transaction needs to be kept under wraps. Read more about investment proposal scams by clicking here.

Romance scams: Scammers trawl internet dating sites, chat rooms and other profile sites looking for lonely hearts. They may request money for dowries, visas or to help sick family members. Read more about romance scams by clicking here.

Advance fee frauds are commonly called Nigerian scams where these types of scams originally came from. However the scammers are now located in a variety of places including Spain, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Fight back

Advance fee fraudsters are experts at conning you into paying various fees and charges to access non-existent funds or goods.

  • Advance fee frauds can come in the guise of fake lottery wins, pleas to help others to access funds in foreign bank accounts, and even “love interests”. Familiarise yourself with the different types of advance fee frauds by clicking here.

  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails or letters claiming you have won an overseas lottery you have never entered.

  • Do not respond to unsolicited approaches to help strangers move money across borders in exchange for a commission.

  • Be careful when Internet dating. Make sure your Romeo or Juliet is interested in you - and not your bank account.

  • Do not provide your personal information – including bank account details, address, passport or driver's licence numbers – to strangers. This information can be used for identity fraud or to con others.

  • Never send money to a stranger using a money wire transfer service. Requests to wire transfer is a big warning sign that something is a scam. Scammers prefer this type of payment style because it is almost impossible to recover the money. Check out Western Union’s tips on protecting yourself from fraud at www.westernunion.com.au

  • Advance fee fraudsters often request that you keep your winnings or involvement in accessing funds a secret. Don’t follow their advice.

  • If you receive a suspicious letter or email, report it to WA ScamNet.Advance fee fraud emails are also regarded as spam. If you have been a target of spam please contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) at www.spam.acma.gov.au.

Here is an examples of an advanced fee fraud. It is annotated so you can educate yourself about the tricks the scammer might use.

Operation/Project Sunbird

Operation/Project Sunbird

Project Sunbird is a joint anti-fraud initiative between WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Consumer Protection, looking at money being sent from Western Australia to African countries such as Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo.

When the financial intelligence data is analysed, non-fraudulent money transfers e.g. for business reasons or by Africans in WA to relatives back home, are eliminated. Those left are identified as possible fraud victims and regrettably, the majority of the time it’s people in fake relationships with someone they met on the internet and have never seen face-to-face.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal Bureau of Investigation

We have seen scam emails aleging to be from the FBI before.  This time an email from Professor Charles C Soludo, who we believe is actually the Executive Governor of the Bank of Nigeria, is the start of an elaborate four-part advance fee fraud scam. The first part of the scam tells recipients they have a contract/inheritance payment of US$5 million waiting to be transferred to them via automatic teller machine.

The Spaniard's Loot

The Spaniard's Loot

Misfortune seems to follow the filthy rich clients of Spanish lawyers David Ramos, Gonzales Olias, San Diego Samaranch Esq, David T Duddias, David Thomson Jr and David Lopez. They all end up dead!  Most die in traffic accidents on the Madrid Highway. By responding to the letters, you will be entering what is commonly referred to as an advance-fee fraud.



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