Consumers should be aware that solicitations from con artists claiming to be Nigerian nationals that promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money out of their country have become quite common. These advance fee solicitations, as well as other sophisticated Internet solicitations, are scams. Consumers would be well advised to avoid responding to them.
In the Nigerian solicitation scheme, alleged Nigerian officials, business people or surviving relatives of government officials offer to transfer millions of dollars into a consumer's bank account in exchange for a small fee. Consumers responding to the bogus initial offer receive an official-looking document and are asked to provide blank letterhead, as well as bank account numbers and a small fee to cover the transaction, transfer cost and attorneys' fees.
Consumers also should be aware that there has been an upsurge in advance fee solicitation scams in northern Illinois originating from Kazakhstan and other former Soviet Republics. Additionally, consumers should be on the watch for similar advance fee solicitations from scammers pretending to be soldiers in Afghanistan. In these solicitations, persons purporting to be American military personnel claim to have found cash belonging to terrorists and solicit the assistance of the recipient of the e-mail in bringing the money into the United States so that it will not fall into the hands of terrorists again.
Online auctions and bogus cashier's checks are also increasingly being used by scam artists to defraud consumers. In these schemes, the buyer responds to an Internet auction by sending a counterfeit cashier's check for more than the asking price. The seller then informs the buyer of the overpayment and returns the difference to the buyer. After the check bounces, the bank holds the seller responsible for the amount of the check.
When paid with a cashier's check, bank officials recommend that the phone number on the check be verified through directory assistance rather than through the contact information on the check itself to determine if the check is valid. When using online auction services, it is recommended that consumers use security devices such as escrow payments, insurance options, etc. when purhasing from on-line auctions.
The U.S. Department of State cautions against traveling to destinations as requested in solicitation letters and reports that people who have responded to these advance fee solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.
If you receive a solicitation via E-mail - forward it to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you have lost money to one of these schemes, send copies of your documentation to the U.S. Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 950 H Street, N.W., Room 402, Washington, D.C., 20223.
More information on this advance fee loan scam is available through the Department of Justice at: