Have you been contacted by someone from Nigeria asking for your help in transferring money out of the country? If so, then you are one of thousands of people all over the world, including doctors, lawyers engineers and professors, who have been targeted by what is sometimes called the “Nigerian letter scam” or “Nigerian advance fee fraud”. Although “Nigerian” is the name given to it, this scam is international. The letter or email you get may also pretend to come from another country.
It is estimated that Australians lose $2.5 million every month to the Nigerian scam!
How the scam works The scam varies, but usually you will receive a letter, or more often, a fax or email offering you a business “proposal” or transaction.
The Nigerian scam typically involve a letter or email from a person overseas claiming to need help transferring a large sum of money. They typically offer to provide a significant portion of that money in exchange for bank account details
Once you are hooked, you will be asked to pay all sorts of “advance fees” (eg. customs, taxes, bribes, legal fees) to facilitate the transfer.
Of course, there is no wealth to be transferred and they just use your bank account details to swipe your hard-earned money from your account.
New versions of the notorious Nigerian scam circulating via email The Nigerian scam letter is popping up everywhere using slightly different names and different con stories. Regardless of what name is used, position they say they have, or what story is spun, these offers of quick wealth are fraudulent and will only result in lost time and money, and the awful feeling of knowing you have been fooled.
Below we have listed the some of the recent versions of the Nigerian scam in circulation:
- Request to use a bank account to deposit a large sum of money. This scam requests the victim to allow them to use their bank account so a large sum of money may be deposited into. Initial contact with the victim is made by a mass produced email. The money offered may be from a secret bank account, unexpected inheritance, overpaid Government contract or a ‘forgotten sum of money’ left in a Nigerian bank. In each instance, before the money is placed into the victims’ bank account, a series of fees and charges are required to be paid before the money can be released, eg. taxes, legal fees etc. Despite the victim making numerous payments to individuals in different countries, there are always delays which prevent the money being sent and require a further payment to be made. A key ingredient of this scam is the victim is required to keep the money transfer secret.
- Business Opportunity. A business may receive a request from a Nigerian person posing as a public official offering the opportunity to become involved in a large commercial operation being undertaken in Nigeria. The most common example involves projects in the Nigerian oil industry although other examples have been identified in the telecommunications industry. The offer will involve very large financial returns and will require the victim to finance a portion of the Nigerian contract. All payments will be required to be forwarded via money transfer agencies such as Western Union in amounts between $5,000.00 and $10,000.00. Examples of the requests for money include: legal fees, taxes, money transfer fees etc. In each instance, the money will be required to be sent to numerous individuals in different countries such as Benin, Togo, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
- Online relationship. This scam targets victims, who are met through internet dating sites, chat rooms or Instant Messenger services. The fraudster may present one of a variety of scenarios including: * Australian citizen in Nigerian hospital – A common scenario begins with the victim chatting online with an Australian citizen living in Nigeria. Communication suddenly stops until contact is made by a ‘Nigerian doctor’ saying their friend has been in a car crash and needs money to pay for urgent surgery. The victim wishing to help their friend commences sending money to Nigeria via a money transfer facility such as Western Union and as each sum of money is forwarded, a further request for more funds is made. * Internet Romance – With the internet dating scam, the fraudster represents they wish to travel to Australia however needs help to pay for airfares, visa charges or a passport. Once these costs have been paid, the fraudster requests more money to pay for their local taxes, family hospital bills and other costs. In each instance, the fraudster represents they have missed their flight to Australia and requests more money to be sent to Nigeria to pay for further airfares. The fraudster continues this scam until the victim runs out of money or refuses to send any more to Nigeria.
- Fraudulent cheque/ credit card scam. This scam targets small business owners and persons who have been caught in the internet dating scam. In this example, the fraudster requests goods be sent to him in Nigeria and sends a bank cheque to pay for the goods. The cheque is usually from a foreign bank and is for an amount in excess of the value of the goods and freight forwarding charges. The victim also pays for all the freight forwarding charges and sends the balance of the funds to the fraudster using a money transfer system such as Western Union. When the cheque is deposited into the victims’ bank account in Australia, depending on the quality of the forgery, it may initially clear. This provides the victim with the assurance the cheque is of good value as represented and they purchase the goods and sends them to Nigeria. Several weeks later, the cheque is identified as being fraudulent and the victim ends up bearing the cost of the whole transaction. The credit card scam involves the fraudsters contacting Australian businesses and requesting the purchase of goods or services. The orders often are significantly higher than that the business would usually receive and appears to be a financial windfall for the business owner.
- Charity Scam. The charity scam differs to the other Nigerian scam as victims are not seeking anything in return. The fraudsters seek victims amongst Church related web sites and chat rooms seeking persons to make regular donations to themselves to run a specific charity. The fraudster represents themselves to be a ‘Reverend’ or ‘Pastor’ who operates an orphanage or Church and is desperately seeking funds. There are no means provided to identify whether the charity actually exists or whether the person seeking the funds is who they represent themselves to be.
Accommodation providers are regularly asked to provide quotes for Nigerian representatives seeking to attend Queensland for businesses reasons and wishing to book accommodation and conference facilities. Once the quote is provided, the fraudster provides a series of credit cards for the payment to be made from. If a card is not active, then alternative credit card numbers are supplied. Once the payment has been made, the fraudster cancels the accommodation and conference and requests the funds be refunded via a money transfer service such as Western Union. Once the business has refunded the money, they may be notified by the credit card company the transactions were fraudulent and the business must refund the money.
What can you do?
- Never reply.
- Throw the offer in the bin or delete the email.
- Do not forward them on to your friends as they suggest, as you will only be creating trouble for them too.
- Never give your bank account number or other personal details to unauthorised people.
- If you have got caught yourself, or if you come across any evidence of Australian involvement in this scam, contact your state or territory police.
Do not become the latest victim of these scams
They are not only illegal, but they may also be life-threatening as there have been unsubstantiated reports in the past that people with healthy bank accounts were flown overseas first class to meet with the scammers, but on arrival were promptly kidnapped and held for ransom.
When the scam is based overseas, it is outside our jurisdiction so the Office of Fair Trading cannot investigate or assist if you find you have lost your money.
Consumers are also warned to beware of other scams, including fake requests for donations, bogus bank emails, phoney lotteries, chain letters, pyramid schemes, envelope stuffing schemes and invoice fraud.
Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a lie.