419 Fraud / Advance fee fraud


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419 Fraud / Advance fee fraud

SCD6 Economic and Specialist Crime OCU is issuing warnings, as part of a crime prevention initiative against a type of fraud commonly know as 'West African' or '419' advance fee fraud. This section of the Metropolitan Police website will serve as a resource providing warnings and advice to help potential victims protect themselves as well as publishing important legal information.

What is West African "419" fraud?

Advance fee fraud or '419' fraud (named after the relevant section of the Nigerian Criminal Code) is a popular crime with the West African organised criminal networks. There are a myriad of schemes and scams - mail, faxed and telephone promises designed to facilitate victims parting with money. All involve requests to help move large sums of money with the promise of a substantial share of the cash in return.

This type of scam, originally known as the "Spanish Prisoner Letter", has been carried out since at least the sixteenth century via ordinary postal mail. These scams have come to be associated in the public mind with Nigeria due to the massive proliferation of such confidence tricks from that country since the mid-eighties, although they are often also carried out in other African nations, and increasingly from European cities with large Nigerian populations, notably London and Amsterdam.

The laws from Section 419 and laws in place in other jurisdictions criminalising the offences do not scare away the criminals who profit from these crimes. The stakes and profits are simply too high and many government officials are believed to be involved with the criminal gangs.

Victim's individual monetary losses can range from the low thousands into multi-millions. True figures are often impossible to ascertain, because many victims, embarrassed by their naiveté and feeling personally humiliated, do not report the crime to the authorities. Others, having lost so much themselves, become "part of the gang" recruiting more victims from their own country of residence. There are tragic cases of victims being unable to cope with the losses and committing suicide