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The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly, usually because he has no right to it.Such people, who may be real but impersonated people or fictitious characters played by the con artist, could include, for example, the wife or son of a deposed African leader who has amassed a stolen fortune, a bank employee who knows of a terminally ill wealthy person with no relatives, or a wealthy foreigner who deposited money in the bank just before dying in a plane crash (leaving no will or known next of kin), and similar characters.In 2006, 61% of internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, while 16% were traced to the United Kingdom, and 6% to Nigeria.
Here’s how it works: a beautiful Russian woman, complete with beautiful Russian woman pictures, contacts her target through an online dating site.
Another variant of the scam, dating back to circa 1830, appears very similar to what is passed via email today: "Sir, you will doubtlessly be astonished to be receiving a letter from a person unknown to you, who is about to ask a favour from you...", and goes on to talk of a casket containing 16,000 francs in gold and the diamonds of a late marchioness. It then asked what to do with profits from a .6 million investment, and ended with a telephone number.
Other official-looking letters were sent from a writer who said he was a director of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), "An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return." There are many variations of this type of scam, including the 419 scam (also known as the Nigerian Prince scam), the Spanish Prisoner scam, the black money scam, Fifo's Fraud and the Detroit-Buffalo scam.