CONSUMER ADVISORY FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lori Sitler
Phone: (302) 577-8314
Pager: (302) 247-1132
Date: March 24, 2003
Connolly and Brady Caution Consumers About New Nigerian Scam Internet Sales Targeted for Counterfeit Check Scheme
(Wilmington, DE): Attorney General M. Jane Brady and United States Attorney Colm Connolly wish to alert Delawareans about a new twist on an old theme - "Nigerian" scams. The perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud, known internationally as "419" fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes, are often creative and unfortunately, effective.
In the original scheme, which has plagued the U.S. for over 15 years, a company or individual will typically receive an unsolicited letter by fax or email from a Nigerian claiming to be a civil servant. In the letter, the Nigerian will inform the recipient that he 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 procurement contract. The recipient is usually offered a commission up to 30% for assisting. Victims are often convinced of the authenticity of Advance Fee Fraud schemes by the forged or false documents bearing apparently official letterhead, seals, as well as letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. According to the United States Secret Service, this scheme grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses continue to escalate.
The newest version of the Nigerian scam targets consumers who have an item to sell listed on the Internet. Below is a typical scenario of the Nigerian counterfeit cashier's check scam which has surfaced in the last six to eight months in the United States:
A seller lists an item on the Internet - a classic car, pure-bred animal, etc. The seller receives an offer to buy the item at or above the asking price from a buyer, usually from Nigeria or "West Africa", who agrees to send the seller a bank cashier's check. The buyer then advises the seller that he is owed money from a third party in the U.S. in an amount greater than what he owes seller. The buyer offers to send the cashier's check to the seller for the full amount, and asks that the seller send him the balance, "after the check clears, of course".
Generally, the sellers are skeptical but, in the scam, an authentic-looking U.S. bank cashier's check arrives by Federal Express. The seller's bank accepts the check and assures the seller that the funds are available. The seller wires the balance to the buyer and prepares to ship the item.
Usually, within a week, the bank contacts the seller to say that the cashier's check is counterfeit and worthless and that the bank requires payment to cover the counterfeit check. The seller's account may be frozen, and the seller may even be suspected of fraud for passing the counterfeit check!
While the items for sale may vary and the reasons given for sending a check in excess of the sale price may change, the bottom line is SELLER BEWARE!
Attorney General Brady warns consumers who use the Internet for selling goods to, "Be extremely skeptical of any buyers from Nigeria or West Africa who offer to pay by a cashier's check. Chances are the check will be counterfeit and, although your bank may make funds available to you and the check initially "clears", if the check is determined to be counterfeit, you will be held responsible for the full amount of the check!"
If you have been a victim of any of these scams, please contact Paul Kane, Senior Investigator, Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit at (800) 220-5424 to make a report and/or the United States Secret Service at (302) 573-6188.