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Financial crime

© Copyright INTERPOL 2009. All rights rese

Advanced Fee Fraud: 4-1-9 letters (Nigerian letters)

For more than 16 years, private individuals, as well as organizations and commercial
companies, have been receiving unexpected communication through letters and faxes but
mainly through e-mails from senders claiming to be Nigerian or African citizens and
promising high profitable business. According to the relevant section of the Criminal Code of
Nigeria it is referred to as 4-1-9 Fraud.

In general, the solicitation for a profitable money deal is very simple and almost always

The unknown sender purports to be the family relative or close friend of a former
member of the government or an important and rich businessman who lost his life
during political changes or during the September 11 attack or an accident

Before the person died he deposited a large amount of money in a bank account in
Nigeria. The alleged amount may vary between 800.000 USD and 100.000.000 USD
or more

The sender of the letter maintains that he has legal access to the account and intends
to transfer the money to a foreign account

The sender found the name and address of the receiver through recommendation or
by chance and the receiver is the only trustworthy person able to assist him in the
successful transfer of the money

For his assistance the mail receiver is promised between 15% to 50% of the total

The mail sender requests discreet and confidential handling of the deal while the expected
enormous profit makes the receiver forget or ignore all rules of secure and professional
business. The victim is asked to open a special bank account to allow the correct remittance
of the money.

The next phase of the fraud is convincing the victims that the money transfer is in progress.
Several documents are provided bearing apparently official Nigerian government letterhead
and seals, as well as false letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. The name of
the victim is almost always already mentioned in the documents.

An extensive exchange of e-mails, faxes and telephone calls takes place between the
perpetrators and the victims in order to gain the victim's confidence and to collect as much
private information about him as possible. The information e.g. of bank accounts, ID
documents, addresses and contact persons is often used later on to commit further criminal
offences in the name of the victim.

In the next stage the intended fraud takes place. The fraudsters convey that some problems
have suddenly arisen which can only be solved with the assistance of the victim. An official is
demanding an up-front bribe, or an unforeseen tax payment or fee to the Nigerian
government has to be paid before the money can be transferred. These can include e.g.
licensing fees, registration fees, and various forms of taxes and attorney fees. Each fee paid
is described as the very last fee required. Invariably, oversights and errors in the deal are
discovered by the Nigerians, necessitating additional payments and allowing the scheme to
be stretched out over a long period until the victim is no longer willing to invest any money.
In a possible follow-up stage victims are requested to travel to Nigeria or a border country
to complete a transaction. The perpetrators maintain that a visa is not necessary to enter
the country while arranging with airport officials for the victims to pass through Immigration
and Customs. As it is a serious offence in Nigeria to enter without a valid visa, the victim's
illegal entry may be used by the fraudsters as leverage to coerce the victims into releasing
funds. Violence and threats of physical harm may be employed to put further pressure on

Victims might also be asked to travel to a neutral country where the money could be handed
over in a hotel room. European capitals as London, Madrid and Amsterdam were identified
as a favourite venue for this.

The Black Money Scheme

During such meetings, the fraudsters present suitcases which are allegedly full of genuine
money to the victim. The notes usually have the size of 100USD bills and are all coloured
black. The victim is told that they have been coated with a special substance in order to
smuggle these out of the country. A special cleaning liquid is required to wash the notes in
order to return them to their original state which costs between 10,000USD and
500,000USD. Having initial physical contact with the enormous amount of promised money
seems for the victim to be the final step required to enter into possession of the money. All
the victims obtain in the end is worthless paper.

The good and the bad

A possible intermediate step before the Black Money Scam takes place could be as follows.
When the victim is no longer willing to pay advance fees, the team of fraudsters may
disappear and contact is interrupted. After a while the victim may be contacted through the
same channels by a new generation of fraudsters maintaining that they are investigators,
aware of the fraud and willing and able to assist the victim in getting his lost money back.
However, this is only another criminal attempt to ask the victim for more money to cover
the unexpected cost of the investigations.

What to do

if you receive one of these fraudulent messages:

Do not reply to any of these messages

Do not surrender details of your bank accounts
Do not surrender details of your company
Do not send or hand over ID documents and letters with your personal or official
letterheads and logos - not even copies -

What to do

If you are already in contact with perpetrators or have already paid advance fees:

Save all received and sent messages

Save all documents of transactions and remittances
Do not agree to attend meetings where money is promised to be handed over to you
Contact your local police forces and follow their advice .

Last modified on 4 Mar 2009

© Copyright INTERPOL 2009. All rights reserved.