Common Scams

Essentially, fraudsters try to tempt people, usually via email or fax, with the promise of large cash pay-outs in exchange for a small advance payment hence the name “advanced fee fraud”. In Nigeria, it is named after the section of our criminal code which defines this kind of criminal activities; 419. Fraudsters have come up with a wide range of schemes namely, contract scam, inheritance scam, credit card scam, humanitarian scam, job scam, lottery scam, money washing scam, marriage scam, immigration scam, counterfeiting, religious scam, and other cyber crimes. We describe five of the commonly used tactics below:

Next-of-Kin Inheritance: This is a very common fraudulent tactic. Individuals are contacted by persons claiming to be officials of a bank usually by email. They present bogus stories of foreigners who lived in their country and have passed on who share the same surname with their intended victims. Often they share news stories of the tragic accidents or natural disasters which were widely reported by the news media. They claim to be the “account manager” or “accountant” of huge sums of money left behind by the deceased who has no next-of-kin to inherit the money with the bank. There is usually a tone of urgency – the money is about to be frozen or forwarded to an inaccessible account. Their intended victims are advised to come forward and claim rights to the non-existent inheritance. In essence, the fraudsters ask their victims to be partners in perpetuating fraud.

Government Debt Payments: In several of these schemes, individuals have falsely represented themselves to be “the manager”, “chairman”, “authorized attorney”, “director”, “account manager”, “accountant” or “representative” of a bank and send faxes to creditors of the Federal Government of Nigeria claiming to be empowered by “The Presidency”, “Secretary to the Federal Government”, “Economic Advisor”, etc to repay the government’s past debts. Often phony bank letterheads are used for these faxes which quote phony office addresses, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. In some cases, the solicitors even use the names of actual staff members to strengthen the ‘credibility’ of the solicitation.

Offshore Account Opening Solicitations: In this instance, these criminals contact unsuspecting individuals and portray themselves as agents of credible banks and request that they open offshore bank accounts – accounts in a foreign country. They often refer their victims to fictitious websites that purport to be the websites of real banks.

Spoof: The most common of high-tech Internet scams is called phishing (also called spoof) e-mails that appear to be from a well-known company but can put you at risk. The bogus emails are sent with the hopes of enticing or just tricking the naïve into giving up personal information at fake websites that resemble the websites of legitimate financial institutions or other commercial outfits. Although they can be difficult to spot, they generally ask you to click a link back to a spoof website and provide, update or confirm sensitive personal information. To bait you, they may allude to an urgent or threatening condition concerning your account. The criminals are usually after your password or pin, credit card validation code, ATM/debit or credit card number, bank account details, social or national identification numbers. This personal information is usually used to perpetuate identity theft.

Internet Lottery Win: Spoofs are sent to victims announcing to them their lottery win. The mails quote bogus winning ticket numbers and huge sums of money as payout. “Winners” are usually expected to come forward in a matter of weeks to collect their entitlements or forfeit their winnings. Often, as in all spoofs, these criminals con people into providing personal details and bank account information.