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Nigerian advance fee fraud - if you get one of these letters, don't reply

Media Release

09 July 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released the Australian Institute of Criminology's latest research on the Nigerian advance fee fraud schemes. The paper is due to be delivered at an international conference on fraud in Malta on 9 July.

"The scale of the 'Nigerian advance fee frauds' are simply staggering" Senator Vanstone said. "At least with this fraud the solution is simple. Just don't write back!"

"Letters like these created 4.5 tonnes of correspondence with counterfeit postage which was confiscated by Australia Post in Sydney between August and November 1998."

"Over a two year period, some 250,000 advance fee letters have been collected by the Australian Federal Police."

"Many people just ignore fraudsters' letters, and sensibly don't believe that they will get returns of 40% by providing money to unknown parties overseas."

"Sadly some people are prepared to send upwards of $50,000 overseas to people that they do not know. Even sadder are the victims who are prepared believe further correspondence, ostensibly from Nigerian authorities, advising that their funds have been recovered and will be released after they send additional payments."

"The United States Secret Service estimates that since 1989 US$5 billion has been stolen from victims throughout the world, including Australia."

"Tragically, sometimes involvement in advance fee frauds goes beyond stupidity. Since 1992, 17 people have been killed in Nigeria attempting to recover their funds."

"The problem can escalate through victims carrying out frauds themselves in order to obtain further funds to send to Nigeria. This year two Australian men were sentenced for fraud offences they hoped would allow them to transfer funds to Nigerian to recover money they had already lost."

"The Australian Institute of Criminology's paper shows why we all have to be aware of organised white collar crime."

Advance fee frauds involve tricking prospective victims into parting with funds by persuading them that they will receive a substantial benefit in return for providing some payment in advance.