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Home > Risks > Online Scams

Online Scams

Nigerian Scams

"... My aim of contacting you is to seek your assistance in transferring the sum of thirty five million united states dollars only out of Nigeria and into your trusted bank account abroad...."

We have probably all seen the Nigerian scam letter. Also called "419 scams," these letters combine the threat of identity theft with the old "advance fee scheme."

A letter or email--sometimes from Nigeria, but it might claim to be from anywhere--offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author is trying to transfer illegally out of his or her country. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the scammer—blank letterhead stationery, bank name, account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number provided in the letter.

Be advised that this is a scam and not a legitimate offer.
Don't fall for it!

Unfortunately, these scams usually originate outside of the United States, and American law enforcement has great difficulty in pursuing the criminals. In addition, many of these email solicitations contain computer viruses, making them even more of a menace—so be very cautious. Be sure to maintain current anti-virus software.

Nigerian Variants and other Scams

There are several variations of the Nigerian Scam that criminals may use to exploit their victims. Here are some examples:

Beneficiary of a Will:

The victim receives an email that claims they are the named beneficiary in the will of an estranged relative, and stand to inherit an estate worth millions. In order to complete the inheritance, the victim's personal financial information is needed to "prove" that they are the beneficiary and to "expedite the transfer of the inheritance."

"Over" Paying:

The victim advertises an item for sale on the Internet, and is contacted by an interested buyer from Nigeria or another African country. The scammer then sends the victim a check or money order for an amount much larger than the asking price of the item. The victim is then asked to deposit the difference back to the scammer. If the victim does not wait for the bank to verify the check, they can end up losing thousands of dollars. published a news article that refers to this type of scam.

Donation Solicitations:

The victim receives an email requesting "donations" to fight an evil government or dictatorship in Africa. The scammer requests that the victim provide bank account information so that the "donation" can be directly withdrawn from the bank.

The Secret Service asks if you have been victimized by the Nigerian scam to forward appropriate written documentation to the United States Secret Service.

While the Nigerian scam has flourished with the increasing use of email, it has actually been circulating for many years through snail mail and fax.

To contact the U.S. Secret Service:
US Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
950 H Street N.W.
Suite 5300
Washington, DC 20223
Phone: (202) 406-5850
Fax: (202) 406-5031

Comprehensive list of Internet scams (FBI - Internet Crime Complaint Center)

Scam artists changing tactics (TCPalm - Indian River County Crime)

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