Also called a ‘419’ scam, an advance fee fraud is when fraudsters ask you for an advance or upfront payment in return for promised goods, services, financial reward or employment that will never materialise.
You could be contacted by email, phone, fax or post with scammers often posing as members of genuine organisations and government agencies in order to create the illusion of legitimacy.
Fraudsters will often ask you for payment via Money Transfer as a preferred way of obtaining the funds as quickly as possible.
Different types of advance fee fraud include:
Share purchase scams
Following an offer to buy shares from you at inflated prices, a payment is requested to secure the deal. You will be told that this will be reimbursed if the deal does not go ahead, however once paid the share deal will not take place and your payment will not be returned.
A payment is made to the victim for goods or services using a fraudulent payment method (e.g. stolen credit card details). The payment is made for a higher amount than the actual value and the difference is reimbursed to the fraudster before the victim discovers that the initial payment is fraudulent.
Lottery or cash prize scams
A release fee is requested to claim a fictitious prize that will never arrive.
Online dating scams
After gaining the victim’s trust over the internet, money is requested for a variety of emotive reasons.
Following the victim’s reply to an advert for a fast loan, a fee is requested to cover the loan’s insurance, set up the loan or cover the first month's repayment. The loan will never be received.
Legal fees are requested in order to split the inheritance of an unrelated individual who shares the victim's family name. The deceased individual and their inheritance will not exist.
How can I protect myself?
Stay on your guard when approached by individuals in this way. Ask yourself the following:
- Have I asked or applied for this?
- Is the request unsolicited?
- Am I being guaranteed something if I give money?
- Am I being pressured to respond quickly?
- Have I been told not to discuss this with anybody else?
- Is this the normal way to do business or carry out a relationship?
- Is their spelling or grammar as expected for someone of their position or stated background?
Do not respond to the request and cease contact if you have any suspicion over the validity of the communication. Fraudsters will share or sell on your details to other fraudsters and you may be targeted again.
If the person who has contacted you claims to be from a legitimate company or other organisation then contact the firm using their publicly listed contact details to establish if the request is genuine. See our page on how to check if an email is genuine to learn more on verifying emails.
If you do send funds by money or wire transfer, make sure that it is to someone who you have met and trust.
Remember, if the promise seems too good to be true then it probably is!