Information quoted from the US Secret Service Web Site.
4-1-9 Schemes frequently use the following tactics:
- An individual or company receives a letter or fax from an alleged
"official" representing a foreign government or agency.
- An offer is made to transfer millions of dollars in "over
invoiced contract" funds into your personal bank account.
- You are encouraged to travel overseas to complete the transaction.
- You are requested to provide blank company letterhead forms,
banking account information, telephone/fax numbers.
- You receive numerous documents with official looking stamps,
seals and logo testifying to the authenticity of the proposal.
- Eventually you must provide up-front or advance fees for various
taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes.
- Other forms of 4-1-9 schemes include: c.o.d. of goods or services,
real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices,
beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award and paper currency
Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Overview
The perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), known internationally
as "4-1-9" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal
code which addresses fraud schemes, are often very creative and
Unfortunately, there is a perception that no one is prone to enter
into such an obviously suspicious relationship. However, a large
number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled
out from the masses to share in multi-million dollar windfall profits
for doing absolutely nothing. It is also a misconception that the
victim's bank account is requested so the culprit can plunder it
-- this is not the primary reason for the account request -- merely
a signal they have hooked another victim.
- In almost every case there is a sense of urgency.
- The victim is enticed to travel to Nigeria or a border country.
- There are many forged official looking documents.
- Most of the correspondence is handled by fax or through the
- Blank letterheads and invoices are requested from the victim
along with the banking particulars.
- Any number of Nigerian fees are requested for processing the
transaction with each fee purported to be the last required.
- The confidential nature of the transaction is emphasized.
- There are usually claims of strong ties to Nigerian officials.
- A Nigerian residing in the U.S., London or other foreign venue
may claim to be a clearing house bank for the Central Bank of
- Offices in legitimate government buildings appear to have been
used by impostors posing as the real occupants or officials.
The most common forms of these fraudulent business proposals fall
into the following main categories:
- Disbursement of money from wills
- Contract fraud (C.O.D. of goods or services)
- Purchase of real estate
- Conversion of hard currency
- Transfer of funds from over invoiced contracts
- Sale of crude oil at below market prices
The most prevalent and successful cases of Advance Fee Fraud is
the fund transfer scam. In this scheme, a company or individual
will typically receive an unsolicited letter by mail from a Nigerian
claiming to be a senior civil servant. In the letter, the Nigerian
will inform the recipient that he is seeking a reputable foreign
company or individual into whose account he can deposit funds ranging
from $10-$60 million that the Nigerian government overpaid on some
The criminals obtain the names of potential victims from a variety
of sources including trade journals, professional directories, newspapers,
and commercial libraries. They do not target a single company, but
rather send out mailings en masse. The sender declares that he is
a senior civil servant in one of the Nigerian Ministries, usually
the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The letters refer to investigations of previous contracts awarded
by prior regimes alleging that many contracts were over invoiced.
Rather than return the money to the government, they desire to transfer
the money to a foreign account. The sums to be transferred average
between $10,000,000 to $60,000,000 and the recipient is usually
offered a commission up to 30 percent for assisting in the transfer.
Initially, the intended victim is instructed to provide company
letterheads and pro forma invoicing that will be used to show completion
of the contract. One of the reasons is to use the victim's letterhead
to forge letters of recommendation to other victim companies and
to seek out a travel visa from the American Embassy in Lagos. The
victim is told that the completed contracts will be submitted for
approval to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Upon approval, the funds
will be remitted to an account supplied by the intended victim.
The goal of the criminal is to delude the target into thinking
that he is being drawn into a very lucrative, albeit questionable,
arrangement. The intended victim must be reassured and confident
of the potential success of the deal. He will become the primary
supporter of the scheme and willingly contribute a large amount
of money when the deal is threatened. The term "when"
is used because the con-within-the-con is the scheme will be threatened
in order to persuade the victim to provide a large sum of money
to save the venture.
The letter, while appearing transparent and even ridiculous to
most, unfortunately is growing in its effectiveness. It sets the
stage and is the opening round of a two-layered scheme or scheme
within a scheme. The fraudster will eventually reach someone who,
while sceptical, desperately wants the deal to be genuine.
Victims are almost always requested to travel to Nigeria or a border
country to complete a transaction. Individuals are often told that
a visa will not be necessary to enter the country. The Nigerian
con artists may then bribe airport officials to pass the victims
through Immigration and Customs. Because 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 further pressure victims. In June of 1995, an American
was murdered in Lagos, Nigeria, while pursuing a 4-1-9 scam, and
numerous other foreign nationals have been reported as missing.
Victims are often convinced of the authenticity of Advance Fee
Fraud schemes by the forged or false documents bearing apparently
official Nigerian government letterhead, seals, as well as false
letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. The fraudster
may establish the credibility of his contacts, and thereby his influence,
by arranging a meeting between the victim and "government officials"
in real or fake government offices.
In the next stage some alleged problem concerning the "inside
man" will suddenly arise. An official will demand an up-front
bribe or an unforeseen tax or fee to the Nigerian government will
have to be paid before the money can be transferred. These can include
licensing fees, registration fees, and various forms of taxes and
attorney fees. Normally 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 many months.
Several reasons have been submitted why Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud
has undergone a dramatic increase in recent years. The explanations
are as diverse as the types of schemes. The Nigerian Government
blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family
systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of
Indications are that Advance Fee Fraud grosses hundreds of millions
of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate. In
all likelihood, there are victims who do not report their losses
to authorities due to either fear or embarrassment.