The Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad 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 criminal element. 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
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
Victim's individual monetary losses can range from 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.
Remember: "If it sounds
too good to be true, then it is!"