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Appendix C

West African Advanced Fee Fraud

United States Secret Service

Financial Crimes Division

Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud

          The perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud are often very creative and innovative. This fraud is called "4-1-9" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes. Nigerian nationals, purporting to be officials of their government or banking institutions, will fax or mail letters to individuals and businesses in the United States and other countries. The correspondence will inform the recipient that a reputable foreign company or individual is needed for the deposit of an overpayment on a procurement contract. The letter will claim that the Nigerian government overpaid anywhere from $10 to $60 million on these contracts. There is the perception that no one would enter such an obviously suspicious relationship; however, many victims have been enticed into believing they can share in such windfall profits.

          Individuals are asked to provide funds to cover various fees and for personal identifiers such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and other similar data. Once this information is received, the victims find that they have lost large sums of money. It is hard to pinpoint how much has been lost in these scams since many victims do not report their losses to authorities due to fear or embarrassment.

          In response to this growing epidemic, the Secret Service established "Operation 4-1-9" to target Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud on an international basis. Indications are that losses attributed to Advance Fee Fraud are in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

          Agents on temporary assignment to the American Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, in conjunction with the Regional Security Office, supplied information in the form of investigative leads to the Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) of the Nigerian National Police. This project was designed to provide Nigerian law enforcement officials with investigative leads to enable them to enforce their own jurisdictional violations.

          On July 2, 1996, officials of the FIIB, accompanied by Secret Service agents in an observer/advisor role, executed search warrants on 16 locations in Lagos that resulted in the arrests of 43 Nigerian nationals. Evidence seized included telephones and facsimile machines, government and Central Bank of Nigeria letterhead, international business directories, scam letters, and addressed envelopes, and files containing correspondence from victims throughout the world.

This public service information has been promulgated by:

United States Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division

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Revised: June 1, 2002 TAF

© Copyright 2002 Thomas A. Faulhaber / The Business Forum Online® , All Rights Reserved