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November 15, 2004
Consumer Alert: Latest Advance Fee Fraud

SEATTLE -- The Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers about the re-emergence of a long-distance scam called advance fee fraud because they often originate in that African country.

The scam usually involves a fraudster who convinces victims to perform a “good deed” by sending money, saying the victim will benefit financially once the money is received. Of course, the fraudster keeps the money, never delivering on his promise to share the wealth.

In the latest twist on this version of advance-fee fraud, the fraudster responds to a legitimate car, boat or other high-priced sales ad in an auto trader’s magazine. The scammer, who claims to be emailing from Greece or another distant location, says that someone in the states who owes the scammer money will send a cashier’s check to the seller to cover the cost of the car, plus shipping. The scammer then encourages the seller to send $5,000 to a shipper. If the unwary consumer falls for the scam they’re out the $5,000 and sometimes the vehicle. Luckily, in most cases, the savvy car seller waits for the check to clear; it does not.

In a similar fraud, several consumers have received faxed letters or email from a bogus attorney in Seattle. The attorney claims to be representing a deceased person who shares the same last name as the letter or email recipient and requests financial assistance in helping to release funds to the recipient’s name. Don’t believe it.

On average, the Attorney General’s consumer resource centers receive about 10 reports of similar advance fee fraud scams a month. Since the fraudsters typically are overseas, state attorneys general don’t have jurisdiction to intervene. As a result, victims are referred to the U.S. Secret Service

Consumers’ best defense is to ignore these offers. Use the following tips to recognize and handle advance fee frauds:

  • If someone is pushing you to act now, don’t. Do your homework instead and check them out.
  • Avoid any business deals that require you to send a cashier’s check, postage or shipping costs if you don’t know the seller or company.
  • Never give out any more personal information than is absolutely necessary.
  • Never do anything until their check clears.
  • If the deal originates from Nigeria, never expect any help from the Nigerian Government or your government to bail you out.


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