The Advance Fee Fraud – 419
What is advance fee fraud? An advance fee fraud, also known as a 419 fraud, is a type of scam in which the victim is convinced to advance money to a stranger. This crime which derives its name from Section 419 of the Criminal Code Act CAP 77 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 is a global network for defrauding unsuspecting victims under the pretense that they would get huge amount of money in return. In all cases of 419 scams, the victim is usually led to expect that a much larger sum of money will be returned to him or her. The victim, of course, never receives any of this money.
Those who fall for an advance fee fraud and forward money to the criminal are likely to be targeted for additional payments. That is, the criminal may claim that a second or third advance is necessary before the victim will be entitled to receive the promised money.
Early Version of Advance Fee Fraud
As far back as the 17th century, an early version of this fraud was in use in Europe. Known as the Spanish Prisoner Fraud, the scam in that case consisted of a correspondence in which the criminal would claim to be a prisoner who knows where some buried treasure is located. The “prisoner” would ask for money to bribe the prison guards so that he could escape and get to the treasure. In return for such money, the “prisoner” would promise to share the treasure with the target of the scam.
In reality, the “prisoner” was not in jail at all and was simply using the story as a way to get his hands on the target’s money.
Modern Advance Fee Fraud
The modern version of the advance fee fraud usually takes place via email correspondence. Like the older version, it typically involves a promise of treasure. The “treasure” may involve a lottery jackpot, a contract, a promise of a share of a large bank account, or some other made-up story to explain why a large sum of cash will be forwarded to the victim.
The criminal will also make up a plausible story to explain why a fee is needed in advance. The email may claim that a few thousands of Naira is needed as an “application fee” to the contest that has purportedly already been won. Another common claim is that the wire transfer of such a large sum of money involves fees that must be paid in advance.
Criminals running 419 fraud rings use many tricks designed to lure in even skeptical targets. For example, they will send out mass mailings via the internet, but make each letter appear as though it has been received by only one individual. They may provide working phone and fax numbers to targets who demand them, and furnish documents that appear to have authentic government seals and stamps.
Most people who receive an email offering millions of Naira in return for a comparatively small advance fee will realize that it is nothing more than an attempt to defraud them. However, a tiny percentage of targets will fall for the bait. When millions of solicitations go out, even a small percentage of takers can represent a good profit for the criminal. This explains why the 419 fraud continues to succeed despite the efforts of consumer awareness organizations to educate the public with one simple rule – never send money, your bank account information, or your social security number to a stranger.
Advance Fee Fraud in Nigerian
In Nigeria, the 419ners adopt several entrapments techniques. The cater is often a young man or woman who lures the victim known as Mugu into a phony get rich quick plan which is often too good to be true, but may actually look real. There are several types of entrapment of which the most common are Modeling Contract, Wash-Wash, Shifting Cultivation, Magic Magnet, and Money Box. One common feature of these methods is that there is always a promise of huge benefits to be derived which is often not commensurate with the victim’s commitment of cash, time, effort, assistance or whatever else that is required.
How do the 419 crime operate? The 419 crime is always perfected in such a clever way that the victims believe that the fraudsters are doing honest business, but later discover that all is false. This is after when the victims would have suffered some financial and material losses to the 419ners. There are victims who have suffered this type of false business transactions. However, most of the victims of the 419 frauds are sometimes also not honest individuals because they are always willing and eager to benefit where they do not invest. This is why they easily fall prey to the fraudsters.
As pointed out earlier, the 419 fraudsters have different corny ways with which they trap their victims, all in an attempt to get rich quickly. The use of the internet scam is the most common ways in the present information and communication age to dupe people of their valuables.
For instance, an internet scammer or fraudster sends an email to an identified victim informing him or her of a huge sum of money in hard foreign currency that has just been won, giving excellent but imaginary details of the award. The scammer then goes ahead to demand personal details of his victim including bank accounts number where the imaginary money won can be lodged or transferred to the victim. This is very common these days.
What about the Global Service Mobile (GSM) providers that usually tells their subscribers to part away with sum of N100 to win millions of naira back? If the victim is a desperate one who is also in need of fast money and does not care to think twice, he provides his genuine accounts information to the unknown scammer, and before he knows it, his little or huge saving is gone. The banks are sometimes syndicate to this 419 fraudulent crime by aiding and abetting scammers. We have had situation where genuine services rendered by people are paid through issuance of dud cheques that do not go beyond ordinary paper. We have also witnessed GSM fraudsters who send messages to their victims of huge sums of money awarded to them by certain service providers and asking them to part away with some specified amount of money before they can get the ‘award.’
What about the fake money doublers and washers who tell their victims to provide some little money to purchase chemical to wash certain denomination of currency into millions of money for their victims. The question that perhaps, some of the victims hardly ask before accepting to be part of this type of scam is that, if the money washers or doublers can double millions of any currency for their clients, why can’t the washers or doublers do same for their own benefit? This is where greed and avarice come to play in the matter of 419ners and their victims. Although, it is being speculated that the fraudsters of this nature use some concoction to influence or lure the acceptance of their victims into the business. Still, if the victims are not interested in the shoddy business in the first place, there is little or no influence any concoction can offer.
The 419 scam is also referred to as a “Nigerian Letter” because large-scale use of the 419 fraud first began in Nigeria. As said earlier, article 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code deals with obtaining property by false promises, which is exactly what the advance fee fraud is all about.
Nigerian letters have been emailed to hundreds of millions of individuals to date. The typical Nigerian letter claims that a large sum of money is sitting in a Nigerian bank, but the rightful account holder for some reason cannot access it. The excuse may be that the account holder is being persecuted for being a relative of a deposed dictator, or some other plausible but unlikely story. The advance fee may be explained as being necessary for a wire transfer out of the country, or needed to bribe a bank official into looking the other way. In reality, of course, the advance fee is simply money that is being stolen from the victim.
The 419 fraud became pervasive during the 1990s, with thousands of people in Nigeria participating in hundreds of different fraud schemes, making fraud one of Nigeria’s most significant sources of revenue from abroad. During the first decade of the new millennium, the 419 fraud spread to other African countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal and Togo.
However, the scam is not limited to African nations. Countries as diverse as Spain, Russia, Malaysia, and the United States are also sites of significant advance fee fraud operations.
Outside Nigerian Letter, the most current method involves the use of a third party – someone that is well known and trusted by the target-victim. The fraudster first captures and brainwashes the agent to be used to lobby and lure the victim into parting away with his money with the promise of huge sum of money. In most cases this agent may or may not be a member of the gang. But, he is beclouded by greed and gullibility and his responsibility is to transplant this greed and gullibility consciousness in the principal victim.
Recently, Mohammed Buhari was arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a transaction that has the trappings of voodoo investment scheme. He allegedly obtained N20million from one Mrs. Florence Nwokocha, purportedly to invest in a lucrative oil and gas business with promises of mouth watery returns to the investor. Buhari was allegedly introduced to the lady by his account officer at Ecobank Plc and he agreed to pay Nwokocha, 30 percent annual interest on the sum. But once the money was transferred, Buhari cleaned out the account but never paid any interest to the woman. Sources at the EFCC revealed that the suspect claims he ran into trouble after he lost the bank guarantee which he secured from another new generation bank. The bank, he claims, voided the guarantee on the ground that the branch of the bank that processed it was not competent to do so.
The fraudster sets out to manipulate the greed and gullibility of the victim and the more money he is likely to get from his victim.
The simple tips given below are your best protection.
- Do not respond to a scam letter by mail, email, fax, or telephone.
- Do not agree to any proposed meeting whether it is to take place in overseas or Nigeria.
- Do not give out your money under any circumstances.
- Do not give out your account details to strangers.
- Do not give out documents or other information about yourself or business, including your international passport or national identity card particulars as this may serve as basis for fraud.
- Do not be convinced by documents carrying the insignia/logo of the FGN, CBN, NNPC, NDDC, or any other government ministry, departments and agencies (MDAs).
- Do not accept proposals for remittance of money into your bank account.
- Do not prolong communication with potential fraudsters as this may convince and lure you into avoidable mess.
- Ensure the security of your vital documents relating to Bank Account, International Passport, National Identity Card, Fax/Telephone Numbers, E-mail Address, Insurance Certificates, Company Letter Head Papers, and Contractual Agreement.
- Be alert and more cautious, especially of friendly strangers.
- Do not engage in conversation with a person who approaches you for no apparent reasons. Walk away as quickly as you are able.
- Recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you, and resist, logically.
- Do not give out your telephone number, business or home address to strangers.
- Protect your home from strangers and search your rest room immediately after use by strangers.
- Be careful of aids and staff who advise you to invest in lucrative business with promises of mouth watery returns. They may be connivers or innocent-agents.
- When waiting for a bus, a traffic light, or a friend, be alert. Your stationary position makes you more vulnerable to attack – move around if possible.
- Do not get into a car that has changed directions to pick you up, unless you are very familiar with the occupant(s).
- Ensure that one of those natural weapons (key, pen, etc.) is accessible in case of an emergency.
- Know how to get to your destination, so that you will know when the driver deviates from the route. Get out of the car as soon as possible in such a situation.
- Always walk upright with air of confidence and at a steady pace. Make it appear you are in control. You will then exude a strong image, and potential criminals may avoid you.
- Cross the street if you see a group of male/female approaching you.
- Be attentive to voices, noises or footsteps behind you. If you are suspicious of someone or think you are being followed, quicken or slow your pace, suddenly cross the street, stop in a store or public place, or begin screaming. Swallow your shame and pride when necessary to scream to save your life and protect your property. The world is a stage and we are all actors and actresses acting out our parts at every moment.