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The scammers usually contact you by email or letter and offer you a share in a large sum of money that they want to transfer out of their country. They may tell you about money trapped in central banks during civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news. Or they may tell you about massive inheritances that are difficult to access because of government restrictions or taxes in the scammer’s country.

Scammers ask you to pay money or give them your bank account details to help them transfer the money. You are then asked to pay fees, charges or taxes to help release or transfer the money out of the country through your bank. These ‘fees’ may even start out as quite small amounts. If paid, the scammer make up new fees that require payment before you can receive your ‘reward’. They will keep making up these excuses until they think they have got all the money they can out of you. You will never be sent the money that was promised.

Warning signs

  • You receive an offer out of the blue to ‘help’ someone from another country transfer their money out of their country (eg Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Iraq).
  • The offer sets out a long and often sad story about why the money cannot be transferred by the scammer. This usually involves an inheritance or profits from natural resources that the scammer might say they are trying to protect from taxes or a corrupt government.
  • You are offered a percentage of the total amount transferred in return for your assistance.
  • The amount of money to be transferred, and the payment that the scammer promises to you if you help, is usually very large.
  • The email or letter is in very polite, but broken English.

Protect yourself from Nigerian scams

If it looks too good to be true—it probably is.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money are the scammers.
  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions about money or investments: always get independent financial advice.
  • Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam): delete them.
  • NEVER reply to a spam email (even to unsubscribe).
  • Never send your personal, credit card or online account details through an email.
  • Money laundering is a criminal offence: do not agree to transfer money for someone else.

Scam involving the transfer of money for someone else?

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If you are approached with this scam, you will be asked to transfer money for somebody using your own bank account or a bank account that you set up for this purpose. The approach could come in a number of ways—by a letter similar to the Nigerian scams, by an offer that sounds like a work from home opportunity or in any other way which means you have to hand over bank account details to a stranger. The scams often offer you a commission simply for receiving money into your bank account and then transferring it out again. The commission can be as high as 15 per cent or more of the amount transferred.

If you agree to take part, the scammer could use your account details to clean out your savings.

However, some scammers actually do send money across. This money might come from organised crime or from the proceeds of other scams like internet banking scams.

You may even find that the scammer is keeping their word and lets you keep a small percentage of the total transferred. However, you may also find that the scammer then asks you why you have not transferred some money that you did not receive. The scammer might then pressure you to make up for the ‘missing payment’ out of your own pocket.

Even if none of this happens, if you agree to transfer money in this way you may find that you are being used to cover someone else’s tracks. If the authorities follow the money trail from a crime that the person scamming you was involved in, it could lead straight to your bank account.

Scammer's Operation on scam

  • A scam operator will try to sell you a poorly explained idea, or product. Don't believe what someone says simply because you don't know a lot about something. There is a wide variety of financial products available and it can be hard to know about all of them. If you are unsure about anything, speak to a licensed financial adviser.

  • Scam operators prey on your insecurities, greed, or fear. They'll probably make you feel out of your depth and overawed. Don't make financially based decisions on your gut instinct. And don't do it just because you're too embarrassed to get out of it.

  • Scam operators will take an interest in your personal life. They'll be your best buddy until they get your money. They'll ring you up to see how your business operation is going, and they'll be really encouraging. You may feel like you're being pressured. You probably are! If you're feeling uncomfortable then you need to tell these people flat out, that you aren't interested and you want them to go away. If you can't get answers to your questions in a clear and easy to understand manner, get out of there!

  • With every financial investment there is risk involved. Be wary of salespeople that don't mention any negatives, or play down risks. Be honest with yourself. If you are feeling uncomfortable with the risk, don't invest.

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