Advance Fee Fraud, or 4-1-9 Fraud
The perpetrators of advance fee fraud, known internationally as "4-1-9 fraud" (after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses these schemes), are often very creative and innovative. A large number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses to share in multi-million dollar windfall profits for no apparent reason.
If you have received an e-mail or fax from someone you do not know requesting your assistance in a financial transaction, such as the transfer of a large sum of money into an account, or claiming you are the next of kin to an wealthy person who has died, or the winner of some obscure lottery, DO NOT respond. These requests are typically sent through public servers via a generic "spammed" e-mail message. Usually, the sender does not yet know your personal e-mail address and is depending on you to respond. Once you reply, whether you intend to string them along or tell them you are not interested, they will often continue to e-mail you in an attempt to harass or intimidate you. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail of this nature, the best course is to simply delete the message.
Due to a number of aggravating circumstances -- the use of false names, addresses, stolen/cloned/prepaid cell phones and remote e-mail addresses -- verifying the location of and subsequent prosecution of these persons or groups is difficult. The act of sending an e-mail soliciting your assistance in a financial transaction is not a crime in itself. The installation of a credible spam filter and contacting your Internet Service Provider may help deter these unsolicited e-mails. However, there is currently no available program to completely block these types of messages.
If you have suffered a significant financial loss related to advance fee fraud, please contact your local Secret Service field office. Telephone numbers are available in the Field Office Directory on this website or may also be found on the inside cover of your local telephone directory. Any investigation regarding this type of fraud will be conducted on a case by case basis at the discretion of the local Secret Service office and U.S. Attorney's Office.