fighting spam and scams on the Internet
"419" Scam – Advance Fee / Fake Lottery Scam
The so-called "419" scam is a type of fraud dominated by criminals from Nigeria and other countries in Africa. Victims of the scam are promised a large amount of money, such as a lottery prize, inheritance, money sitting in some bank account, etc.
Victims never receive this non-existent fortune but are tricked into sending their money to the criminals, who remain anonymous. They hide their real identity and location by using fake names and fake postal addresses as well as communicating via anonymous free email accounts and mobile phones.
Keep in mind that scammers DO NOT use their real names when defrauding people.
The criminals either abuse names of real people or companies or invent names or addresses.
Any real people or companies mentioned below have NO CONNECTION to the scammers!
Read more about such scams here or in our 419 FAQ. Use the Scam-O-Matic to verify suspect emails.
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Some comments by the Scam-O-Matic about the following email:
- This email uses a separate reply address that is different from the sender address. Spammers use this to get replies even when the original spam sending accounts have been shut down. Also, sometimes the sender addresses are legitimate looking but fake and only the reply address is actually an email account controlled by the scammers.
- The following phrases in this message should put you on alert:
- "western union" (this will cost you money - be careful with upfront payments to anyone you only know through email, especially if they promise you a lot of money. NEVER send money by Western Union or MoneyGram to people you do not know personally - NO EXCEPTIONS! Instant wire transfer services are not meant to be used with strangers because they offer no protection against fraud. That is precisely why the criminals want you send money that way. )
- "money gram" (this will cost you money - be careful with upfront payments to anyone you only know through email, especially if they promise you a lot of money. NEVER send money by Western Union or MoneyGram to people you do not know personally - NO EXCEPTIONS! Instant wire transfer services are not meant to be used with strangers because they offer no protection against fraud. That is precisely why the criminals want you send money that way. )
- "00,000.00" (they want you to be blinded by the prospect of quick money, but the only money that ever changes hands in 419 scams is from you to the criminals)
- "cashier's check" (Beware of any scheme that involves cashing checks or money orders and then wiring a portion of the funds somewhere - you'll be liable for the entire amount if the checks or money orders turn out to be fake, even after you have received and forwarded cash. If it's a lottery prize, remember that real lotteries do not pay large prizes by check. They wire the money directly to your bank account and you do not pay for that. Many scammers promise a large check only in order to then demand payment of courier fees for a fake courier service. )
- "firstname.lastname@example.org" (this email address has been used in a known scam)
- This email message is a 419 scam. Please see our 419 FAQ for more details on such scams.
- Western Union money transfer is completely untraceable and therefore is *not* safe to use with anyone you do not know personally. It is the preferred method of online criminals to collect money from their victims.
Fraud email example:
From: "Federal Bureau of Investigation" (may be fake)
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2011 22:28:21 -0000
Subject: FBI ALERT: REGARDING YOUR WINNING PRIZE OF $800,000.00 (TREAT CONFIDENTIAL).
FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
This is to officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly completed an investigation with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you legally won the sum of $800,000.00 USD. from a Lottery Company outside the United States of America. During our investigation we discovered that your e-mail won the money from an Online Balloting System and we have authorized this winning to be paid to you via a Certified Cashier's Check.
Normally, it will take up to 10 business days for an International Check to be cashed by your local banks. We have successfully notified this company on your behalf that funds are to be drawn from a registered bank within the United States of America so as to enable you cash the check instantly without any delay, henceforth the stated amount of $800,000.00 USD. has been deposited with Bank Of America.
We have completed this investigation and you are hereby approved to receive the winning prize as we have verified the entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free, due to the fact that the funds have been deposited at Bank Of America you will be required to settle the following bills directly to the Lottery Agent in-charge of this transaction whom is located in Washington,DC. According to our discoveries, you were required to pay for the following -
* Deposit Fee's (Fee's paid by the company for the deposit into an American Bank which is - Bank of America)
* Cashier's Check Conversion Fee (Fee for converting the Wire Transfer payment into a Certified Cashier's Check)
The total amount for everything is $470.00 (Four Hundred and Seventy USD.) We have tried our possible best to indicate that this $470.00 should be deducted from your winning prize but we found out that the funds have already been deposited at Bank Of America and cannot be accessed by anyone except the legal owner (you), the winner; therefore you will be required to pay the required fee's to the Agent in-charge of this transaction via Western Union Money Transfer Or Money Gram.
In order to proceed with this transaction, you will be required to contact the agent in-charge (AGENT PAUL FREEMAN) via e-mail. Kindly look below to find appropriate contact information:
CONTACT AGENT NAME: AGENT PAUL FREEMAN
E-MAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com
You will be required to e-mail him with the following information:
DIRECT CONTACT NUMBER:
You will also be required to request Western Union details on how to send the required $470.00 in order to immediately ship your prize of $800,000.00 USD via Certified Cashier's Check drawn from Bank of America, and also include the following Fund Reference Identification : EA2948-910.
This letter will serve as proof that the Federal Bureau Of Investigation is authorizing you to pay the required $470.00 ONLY to AGENT PAUL FREEMAN via information in which he shall send to you, if you do not receive your winning prize of $800,000.00 we shall be held responsible for the loss and this shall invite a penalty of $3,000 which will be made PAYABLE ONLY to you (The Winner).
Please find below an authorized signature which has been signed by the FBI Public Affairs Director - John Miller
NOTE: In order to ensure rapid response for the Fund won, contact AGENT PAUL FREEMAN as soon as possible providing the required information needed from you above