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:
- "from the desk of" (a common phrase found in 419 scams)
- "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. )
- "mtcn" (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)
- "cotonou" (a location commonly mentioned in 419 scams)
- This email message is a fake lottery scam. Consider the following facts about real lotteries:
- They don't notify winners by email.
- You can't win without first buying a lottery ticket.
- They don't randomly select email addresses to award prizes to.
- They don't use free email accounts (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) to communicate with you.
- They don't tell you to call a mobile phone number.
- They don't tell you to keep your winnings secret.
- They will never ask a winner to pay any fees to receive a prize!
- 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.
- This email lists mobile phone numbers. Use of such numbers is typical for scams because they allow criminals to conceal their true location. They can receive calls in an Internet cafe from where they send you emails, while pretending to be in some office.
Fraud email example:
From: WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 19 May 2011 18:40:24 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Immediate Attention
FROM THE DESK OF THE DIRECTOR
WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
COTONOU, REPUBLIC OF BENIN.
CUSTOMER CARE: email@example.com
DEAR VALUED CUSTOMER,
How are you? We happily announce to you the draw of
the United Nations programs held on the 16Th Of May, 2011 in Benin
Republic. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 564 75600545
188. You have been compensated with the sum of $400,000.00 USD and
payment will be remitted to you via western union money transfer.
USD$4,500 has already be sent to you since last week but we were unable
to give you the information on phone for the past days but due to bad
network here, So we decided to send you the details via email today.
Here is the western union information to pick up the USD5000.00.
MTCN : 782 543 4236 SENDER'S NAME: MARYLIN JOHNSON TEXT QUESTION: IN
GOD ANSWER:WE TRUST AMOUNT SENT: $4,500.00 USD COUNTRY:BENIN RECEIVER
NAME:COUNTRY:TELEPHONE:Â Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Western Unionï¿½ Money Transfer,
Head Office Benin Republic.