Advanced Fee Fraud

By Saima Batool & Wasi Ahmed published in Pakistan Accountant, October - December 2009

Advanced Fee Fraud is a criminal offence. The ‘scam’, as it is now widely known, is initiated by syndicates with members in different parts of the world strategically located to implement their different tasks to ensure the success of the deals. As the name of the crime implies, the fraudsters through deception obtain money or goods from the victims in advance in lure of promised financial benefits accruable to the victims after the conclusion of the ‘deal’.

We should also note here that the deals are usually not legal; there are always indications of bribes to be paid to some government or bank officials, evasion of official tax and other illegal activities to ensure the success of the deal. What usually attracts the victims to co-operate with the fraudsters are the attractive financial benefits they hope to gain at the end of the deal, thus in the real sense both the fraudsters and the victims have wrong motives.

The scam is initiated with the fraudster contacting a targeted victim, either by fax, phone or e-mail and a proposal or request made with the fraudster posing as senior government officials, a victim or dependent of government’s abuse of human rights. They claim that they are in possession of a large amount of money.

The proposal usually involves the transfer of the money to a bank account outside of Nigeria, to that of the targeted victim. A plausible or sympathetic explanation is usually given for the transfer, although they basically appeal to the intended victim’s greed usually with a promise of a sizeable percentage of the money transferred, as a commission for the use of the bank account.

If the intended victim is interested in the deal, they are requested to forward a variety of paperwork which generally includes blank company letterheads which are duly signed, blank invoices, telephone and fax numbers, and especially bank account details; these being required to effect the transfer of the money into the bank account.

Features of the Scam Letters
  • Urgency: The letter will stress the urgency of the matter.
  • Confidentiality: The confidential nature of the transaction is always stressed.
  • Forged Documents: Many forged official-looking documents.
  • Strong Ties: Claims are made that the other parties are employed in, or have strong ties with the government, the Central Bank of the country, or dependents of a dead or living victim of the government’s human rights abuse.
  • Huge Sums of Money: The deal always involves the transfer of huge sums of money usually in dollars either kept in a secret vault or account known only to the fraudster.
  • No Risk: The victims are usually told that there is no risk involved.
  • Bank Details: The bank details of the victim are requested and some personal documents.
  • Advance Fee: Finally an advance fee is usually required to either pay for some legal fees, transfer fees, or to bribe government or bank officials.

The Internet has not only brought about development in communications and commerce and all other facets of human endeavors, but it has also provided a platform for criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting members of the public using a faster and cheaper means of communication. Unlike other criminal activities, crime on the Internet has no boundaries. Hence, a scam letter can be sent from any country to any part of the world, posing challenges to law enforcement agencies all over the world.


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