Advance Fee Fraud goes beyond 419 Scams

21Mar10

Online Advance Fee Fraud  (AFF) scams are plentiful and involve several people: the fraudsters themselves, money mules (people who are often duped into commit crimes, as middle men), but think they are earning extra money and then the individuals and businesses who have been defrauded.  Most of the general public who are active online, may have heard of the Nigerian letter scam (419 scam) called 419 due to its code number in current Nigerian law.

There are many ways a scammer poses as someone else to steal a victim’s money.  Advance Free Fraud scams take place anywhere the Internet is in use, not just to victims in the Western nations.  Usually the intended victim cashes a fraudulent check from an account whose information was stolen. Many of these scenarios start with endusers answering spam that appears in their inboxes. Typically in most cases the money mule (person who unwittingly commits a crime) is left holding the bag by being responsible for the amount on the stolen check they had received.

These scams take place in many countries, from South Africa, to the UK, United States, Japan, Germany, and other nations.  Fraudsters catch their intended victims by other means such as posting ads on Craigslist, answering for sale ads, taking over eBay accounts that were phished, and posting elsewhere online where people want to buy and sell things. Also people (male or female) looking for dates online have been swindled many times in what is called sweetheart scams. The sweetheart scams haven going on for quite sometime; note this 2005 MSN article.  Scammers also hack into people’s email accounts and send spam saying they are stranded overseas and need money after being robbed.  Now with the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, these fraudsters continue to dupe their victims after hacking into accounts and pretending to be the victim, asking for money.

For those not familiar with the term Advance Fee Fraud, check out this definition according to the Wikipedia:

An advance-fee fraud is a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain.[1] Among the variations on this type of scam, are the Nigerian Letter (also called the 419 fraud, Nigerian scam, Nigerian bank scam, or Nigerian money offer[2]),[3] the Spanish Prisoner, the black money scam as well as Russian/Ukrainian scam (also extremely widespread, though far less popular than the former). The so-called Russian and Nigerian scams stand for wholly dissimilar organised-crime traditions; they therefore tend to use altogether different breeds of approaches.

The Nigerian letter scam is probably the most well known of the advance fee fraud scams. There are organizations with devoted volunteers who actively combat these crimes. AA419 for example, reports fraudulent advance fee fraud domains to webhosts, and registrars for take-downs. Another website which documents and reports online fraud is Bobbear.co.uk.

The Main Difference between Phishers and Advance Fee Fraudsters

There are many  methods to defraud victims online, from fake eBay auctions, to scam job opportunity scams. Another website dedicated to job fraud is PhishBucket.  These types of scams are a bit different from phishing scams where fraudsters use spam to spoof financial institutions such as banks in order to steal the victim’s username and password in order to steal money from the victim’s banking account.  The main difference is phishers are spoofing an actual company that exists while the run of the mill job scammers simply create fraudulent shell companies or purchase fraudulent domain names with dummy company information listed.

Advance Fee Fraud Victims

Many people ware of this problem tend to think that victims are internet newbies.  Many people who have fallen for these online scams have been retired professors, lawyers and other professionals.

The way for people to avoid online scams is to think about this old adage which is somewhat paraphrased: “if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.”

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One Response to “Advance Fee Fraud goes beyond 419 Scams”

  1. 1 spamfighter666

    Indeed there is a lot of non Nigerian-related 419 AFF scams out there. I encountered one jst last week, and wrote about it:

    T’is the Season for Apartment Rental Scam Spams – Consumer Alert
    http://www.cauce.org/2010/03/tis-the-season-for-apartment-rental-scam-spams-consumer-alert.html


    Neil Schwartzman
    Executive Director
    CAUCE: The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email


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