People in Wisconsin are being targeted to invest in
complicated bank fraud schemes. These scams originate from all over the world –
from places such as Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada, and Jamaica to name a few.
If you receive an offer
If you are tempted to respond to an unsolicited offer, stop and ask
yourself two important questions: Why would a perfect stranger pick you to
share a fortune with, and why would you share your personal or business
information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead
with someone you do not know.
We caution against traveling to the destination mentioned in
the letter. People who responded to these “advance-fee” solicitations have been
beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.
The perpetrators of advance fee fraud, known internationally
as "4-1-9 fraud" after the section of the Nigerian penal code which
addresses these schemes, are often very creative and innovative. 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 no apparent
If you have received an e-mail or fax from someone you do
not know requesting your assistance in a financial transaction, such as the
transfer of a large sum of money into an account, or claiming you are the next
of kin to a wealthy person who has died, or the winner of some obscure lottery,
DO NOT respond.
These requests are typically sent through public servers via
a generic "spammed" e-mail message. Usually, the sender does not yet
know your personal e-mail address and is depending on you to respond. Once you
reply, whether you intend to string them along or tell them you are not
interested, they will often continue to e-mail you in an attempt to harass or
intimidate you. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail of this nature, the best
course is to simply delete the message.
Due to a number of aggravating circumstances – the use of
false names, addresses, stolen/cloned/prepaid cell phones and remote e-mail
addresses – verifying the location of and subsequent prosecution of these
persons or groups is difficult. The act of sending an e-mail soliciting your
assistance in a financial transaction is not a crime in itself. The
installation of a credible spam filter and contacting your Internet Service
Provider may help deter these unsolicited e-mails. However, there is currently
no available program to completely block these types of messages.
A relatively new scheme targeting business and credit card
owners is “reshipping fraud.” Criminals operating primarily from Eastern
European countries and Nigeria have been conducting widespread international
schemes involving bogus job offers, fraudulent credit orders, and the
reshipping of illegally obtained products.
The scam begins when criminals buy high-dollar
merchandise – such as computers, cameras, and other electronics – via the Internet
using stolen credit cards.
They have the merchandise shipped to addresses in the United
States of paid “reshippers” (who may be unaware they are handling stolen
The reshippers repackage the merchandise and mail it to foreign locations such as Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Germany. Victimized businesses include such well-known companies as Amazon, Gateway, and eBay.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection offers these tips:
- Do not give out any personal information to a person or company you do not know.
- Be suspicious of any offer that does not pay a regular salary or involves working for a company overseas.
- Check out the company with the US Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, or the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Foreign lottery scam
Scam operators are using the
telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in
high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe.
Federal law enforcement authorities are intercepting and
destroying millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the
truckload into the U.S. Consumers, lured by prospects of instant wealth, are
responding to the solicitations that do get through – to the tune of $120
million a year, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
An additional scam is the foreign fake email scam which
usually involves a fake lottery and a fake bank (or attorney, securities
company or courier service). The victim is notified of a lottery win and told
the prize will be paid into a bank account at a private bank in London or other
The victim is told they must open an account there, usually
with a minimum deposit of $5000. The victim is told he/she will be able to
access his/her account with the winnings and the deposit in it within 24 hours
of setting up the account and the “winnings” being sent.
Of course, that never happens. Once the victim opens the
account and makes a deposit, the criminals simply pick up the cash wired to the
UK as a deposit at a Western Union agent (such as a major post office) and move
on to the next victim.
There really was no bank account, or even a bank, just as
there was no lottery prize to start with. A scammer may say, "I cannot cash in my winning lottery ticket because I am not a US citizen." The truth is that you do not have to be a US citizen to claim a lottery prize.
If you have won a “free" prize, you should not have to pay anything to get it. If you do, it's a scam. Legitimate sweepstakes or contests never ask you to pay for your own prize or buy something to boost your chance of winning. In a scam, though, the “winners" almost always are asked to pay to collect their prize or to enter another part of a contest.
If you enter contest drawings, especially at a public place like a mall or at an event, you will probably get many promotions in the mail, phone calls, and lots more spam. This is because the prize promoters often sell your personal information to outside advertisers.
Fake check scams
There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could
start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work
at home, give you an “advance” on sweepstakes you supposedly won, or pay the
first installment on the millions that you will receive for agreeing to have
money in a foreign country transferred to your bank account for safekeeping.
They often claim to be in another country. The scammers say
it is too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their
country, so they will arrange for someone in the U.S. to send you the check.
They tell you to wire money to them after you have deposited
the check. If you are selling something they say they will pay you by having
someone in the U.S., who owes them money, send you a check.
In the sweepstakes and foreign money offer variations of the
scam, they will tell you to wire them money for taxes, customs, bonding,
processing, legal fees, or other expenses that must be paid before you can get
the rest of the money.
The check is a fake, but may look real. You do not have to
wait long to use the money, but that does not mean the check is good. But just
because you can withdraw the money does not mean the check is good, even if it
is a cashier’s check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and
the check to bounce.
There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you
money to ask you to wire money back.
Wiring money is like sending cash, once it is sent, you
cannot get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money –
especially overseas – because it is nearly impossible to reverse the transfer
or trace the money.
Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a
gift. If it is free or a gift, you should not have to pay for it. Free is supposed to be free.
If you receive a letter from a foreign government asking you
to send personal or banking information, do not reply.
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as
foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of
money in overseas bank accounts.
Always ask for their license number and licensing agency. All lotteries must be registered and licensed with a gaming commission or regulator. NEVER contact the people listed on the mailing or the name given by the vendor as they may be associated with the scam.
Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your
Guard your account information carefully.
Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It is illegal to
play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign
lottery solicitations are phony.
Know who you are dealing with, and never wire money to
If you are selling something, do not accept a check for more
than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the
story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer
refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Do not send the
As a seller, you can suggest an alternative way for the
buyer to pay, like an escrow service or online payment service. There may be a
charge for an escrow service. If the buyer insists on using a particular escrow
or online payment service you have never heard of, check it out. Visit its
service line. If there is not one – or if you call and cannot get answers about
the service’s reliability – do not use the service.
If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a
local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal
visit to make sure the check is valid. If that is not possible, call the bank
where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone
number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust,
not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the
transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers do not pressure you to send money by
wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there is a
problem with a wire transaction.
Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is
good now, it should be good after the check clears.