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Fraud Alert - 419 Fraud

Fraud Alert

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.

Magic money - wish, wash

This is another favourite of the West African fraudster and is often used as a continuance of, or in conjunction with advance fee fraud. The victim will be shown a suitcase/trunk allegedly full of genuine money (normally US$100 bills). However, the notes are all black and the victim is told that they have been coated with a special substance in order to smuggle them out of Nigeria. The victim is invited to purchase 'a very special cleaning solution' at a cost between US$20,000 and US$500,000, to return the notes to their original status. As the case(s) will contain various amounts from US$20 million to US$60 million, this seems like a 'magical deal', which leads us nicely into magical tricks.

In front of the victim the criminal will select randomly between two and four notes from the case. He will then wash them in a tiny portion of the solution, which he has with him, returning them to their original form as real bank notes. They are given to the victim who is invited to spend them or get them checked at the bank to confirm that they are genuine.

In reality of course the criminal knows perfectly well which notes he is selecting and takes the only ones that are there, the remainder being cut to size paper. A really dexterous criminal will invite the victim to choose notes to clean and use a well practiced sleight of hand to trick the victim into selecting the genuine ones.

The blackening of the notes is usually caused by a Vaseline/iodine solution and the very expensive special cleaning solution is a mixture of washing up liquid and any other liquid with an unusual odour and colour which the victim will not be able to easily detect.

On some occasions, as a sign of good faith, the victim will be able to keep the suitcase for a short time, until the victim obtains the money to buy the solution. To prevent the victim from opening the suitcase the victim is told that exposure to air will cause the black substance to ruin the money. Ammonia may be placed inside in the event that the victim opens the case giving the impression that the money is disintegrating.

The 'black money' may be the payment to the victim following the advance fee payments or it may be that they have been given he story that the money was smuggled out of Nigeria and that the criminals do not have the funds to convert it. If the victim pays them the money for the cleaning fluid then they will get 40% of so of the case content as their commission.

Of course the criminals walk away with plenty of the victim's money and the victim gets cases and trunks full of paper.

Losses of US$4million to US$5 million have been recorded.

As we have stated before, victims are targeted world wide with tens of thousands of letters and e-mails being sent out daily. Most people show good sense and throw them away, but if 1% show interest and 1% of that 1% get hooked then there are still big profits for the fraudsters.

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If you believe you might be being set up as a target for fraud or if you are an investigator and you think you might be dealing with this type of activity then please contact the SCD6 Economic and Specialist Crime OCU at the address or by e-mail.