As technology advances, so do scammers’ methods to defraud people online. One of the most prevalent online scams is the advanced-fee scam, also known as the “419 scam” or “Nigerian prince scam.” In this blog, we’ll explore this scam, provide an example interaction, and explain how to keep yourself safe from falling victim to it.

What is the Advanced-Fee Scam?

The advanced-fee scam is an online scam where scammers promise a large sum of money to the victim in exchange for a small upfront fee. These scams typically start with an email or message from someone claiming to be a wealthy foreigner, celebrity, or a high-ranking official from a foreign government or international organization. The scammer then asks the victim to provide their personal and financial information or pay a fee upfront to facilitate the transfer of the promised funds.

How does the advanced-fee scam work?

For this example, let’s say you’re interested in Bitcoin investing. One day, an alleged Bitcoin investor from a nearby country contacts you on social media. They’re interested in helping you grow your Bitcoin investment into new markets, claiming they can help to double your investment. However, to work with them, this alleged Bitcoin investor says you must wire them money to cover the crypto transfer fees. They say they’ll pay the transfer fees once the money is wired and send you a bonus for working with them. That might sound legitimate and nice to get some extra cash, so you wire the money to the address and send a screenshot as proof. 

From here, one of two things will typically happen:

#1: After wiring the money, you wait to hear back from the alleged Bitcoin investor but never hear from them again and never see any bonus wired to your account. 

#2: The alleged investor will find excuses for asking for money after wiring the initial amount. Whether it’s to cover additional fees or unexpected costs, their goal is to continue to get money from you until you realize it’s a scam or stop sending money.

The advanced-fee scam can occur in various situations, such as investments, job applications, online purchases, and social media communications. Still, the result is always the same: the scammer gets your money, and you receive nothing they promised you.

How to Keep Yourself Safe from Advanced-Fee Scams

To avoid falling victim to an advanced-fee scam, it’s essential to be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages, especially those that ask for personal or financial information or promise large sums of money. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

#1: Don’t trust unsolicited emails or messages. 

If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. When a scammer presents you with a “too good to be true” offer, they’re hoping you’ll be blinded by the magnitude of the monetary offer and miss all of the red flags. 

#2: Verify the identity of the sender. 

Check if the sender’s email address matches the name and organization they claim to be representing. To go a step further, research the company or organization they claim to be affiliated with, find the organization’s contact number, and call them directly to verify. Scammers often spoof email addresses and phone numbers, so it’s important to do your due diligence to protect yourself.

#3: Be cautious of any urgent or time-sensitive requests. 

Scammers often use urgency to pressure victims into making hasty decisions. You’re in control of your choices; don’t let someone else, especially a stranger, try to rush you into making a big financial decision. If they’re not patient enough to allow you to think it over, this is a red flag of a financial scam.

#4: Do your research. 

Search online for the organization or individual offering the deal and check if any reports of scams or fraud are associated with them. Use the Secretary of State database to verify US-based corporations and businesses. Similarly, suppose there is nothing about this person or organization online to prove they exist other than their social media accounts. In that case, this is a red flag of a false identity and, ultimately, a scam.

#5: Never send money or provide personal information to someone you don’t know or trust.

If a scammer gets your information, whether it’s just your contact information or banking credentials, they can do significant damage by using it or selling it to other scammers. Similarly, if you’ve been scammed before, recovery scammers may monitor your online activities, waiting to pose as your bank to gain access to your account. 

In conclusion, the advanced-fee scam is a common type of online fraud that can result in significant financial losses for victims. By being vigilant and cautious of unsolicited emails or messages and following the tips outlined above, you can keep yourself safe from falling prey to these scams. Stay safe, and always verify before you trust!

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