Advance Fee Fraud
The advance-fee fraud is a gradually-rising form of Internet fraud which causes its victims to lose large amounts of money through a variety of tactics. The advance-fee fraud has many variations but basically involves the scammer receiving "Advanced fees" from the victim in order to win a prize, start a business deal, be involved in a pyramid scheme, or other methods. The most common victims of this type of fraudulent activity are those posting ads on job boards such as Craigslist, claiming they are looking for any type of work and are desperate for money. The criminals already know they will do almost anything for money, even send some of their savings if it means making even more money or winning a significant prize.
The fraud begins with the scammer contacting someone via email, or through social media sites, claiming they won a large prize or have been selected for a successful business deal due to their previous work experience or other reasons. Once the person has agreed to the scheme which so far seems legitimate, the scammer requests an advanced fee in order to process paperwork, receive the prize, and pay for courier service for sending the check, paying legal fees or notaries. The scammer is convincing in the way he communicated with the victim, ensuring the victim that he will make large amounts of money at the end of these transactions.
The advance-fee fraud may stop after one initial transaction, or the scammer might contact the person again for additional fees. In order to seem more legitimate, they will create websites that look authentic for fake law firms, notary firms and courier companies. They will have domain names, physical addresses, and contact information to deceive the victim even further. Trusted brands are often used on the websites as well as previous "testimonials" by past prize winners to make it seem more plausible and authentic.
These scammers are often difficult to locate due to the fact that many of them live in other countries, therefore the laws become complicated in regards to the US authorities being able to go across the borders and prosecute these criminals. Additionally, these types of scammers are cunning and know to get around such laws.
Some things to look out for in the communications in order to prevent being a victim to this type of scam is to pay attention to the emails and look for spelling or grammatical errors, as well as bad English. Because many of these scammers do not live in the US, their English might not be the best and can raise a red flag. Web-based email for "businesses" is also a cause for alarm, as most businesses have email at their dot com web address. Communications through fax and SMS are also big warning signs.