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Nigerian Letter or "419"

  • Overview


    Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, this is a sub-classification of an advance fee fraud scheme. Section 419 schemes involve scam artists who pose as business owners, lawyers, bankers, or foreign government officials needing assistance to move money from their country. The people contacted will eventually be asked for payments for taxes, money transfer fees, bribes for foreign government officials or legal fees to get the funds out of the country. Elaborate documents are created to explain these costs, along with guarantees that these fees will be reimbursed once the funds are released and out of the country. In addition to requesting monies, people may be asked to provide personal and banking information to facilitate the transfer of monies. This information could potentially allow unauthorized individuals access to the victim's banking accounts.

  • Additional Information

    In April 1997, the Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, released a brochure concerning Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud. This brochure contains information on the different types of Nigerian Advance Fee Frauds. It describes how they work and the risks associated with them.

    There are numerous versions of "419" schemes. Additional information about these frauds can be found at the following links:

  • Who to Contact

    Who to Contact

    If you have suffered a loss as a result of an advance fee fraud (419), you can report this loss to the United States Secret Service by contacting your local field office.

    You can also file a complaint with the Internet Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

    If you are a U. S. resident and receive a "419" letter in the mail, this falls under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Postal Service. You should:

    • Print VOID across the face of each check/draft.
    • Place the check/draft and any enclosures back in the envelope.
    • On the back of the envelope (outer envelope if double) print the name of the scam, 419 LETTER, ATTN: U. S. POSTAL INSPECTOR.
    • Drop the envelope off at any Post Office, back side up, so postal employees can see what you are handing them.
    • You may wish to file a mail fraud report to alert the U. S. Postal Service to go with the above.
  • Tips for Preventing

    Tips for Preventing

    • If it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Don't respond to any offer unless its legitimacy is thoroughly investigated through independent sources.
    • Don't pay anything up front.
    • Don't provide personal and/or banking information to someone unknown to you.
    • Always ensure that checks have cleared before utilizing the funds. Foreign items may take well over a month to clear. Your bank will hold you personally responsible for any returned items that are deposited into your banking account.
    • Always be suspicious when offers require the highest level of secrecy.

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