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. )
- "service fee" (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. )
- 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.
- 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.
- +22996550 (Benin, probably a prepaid mobile phone)
Fraud email example:
From: "Officefile" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2011 15:29:43 -0400
Subject: Greeting from U.S Embassy for your payment
Greeting from U.S Embassy,
THIS MAIL IS ONLY FOR THE OWNER OF THIS E-MAIL ADDRESS
Please i want to inform you that your fund was brought to my desk this
morning because the director of the western union here in Benin Republic said
that they will divert your funds to the Government Treasury account just
because that you can not pay for their service fee of your funds which is
But i told them to wait untill i hear from you today so that i will know the
reason why you rejected such amount of money $1.5m which will change your life
just because of $98.00.
I want your urgent response as soon as you receive this email and explain to
me the reason why you should abandon your funds for $98.00. But if you don't
need it then i can change your name to another person so that this Government
will not claim this money.
YOUR FULL CONTACT INFORMATION IS NEEDED.
YOUR FULL NAME:----------
YOUR PRIVATE PHONE NUMBER:----------
HOME ADDRESS AND CITY:------ ---------
I will wait to hear from you now or you can call me +229-96-550-
Mr. James A. Knight.
United States Ambassador to the Republic of Benin