What is Advance Fee Fraud?
Advance Fee Fraud is when fraudsters take payments upfront or in advance for services, goods or ‘investments’ that never materialise or did not exist in the first place. Advance fee scams can take many forms:
The ‘seller’ offers tickets for a concert, gig or festival, which they do not in fact possess. The customer pays for the tickets and they never arrive and they are left without them for the event at the last moment as they had been expecting and hoping they would materialise.
Work from Home or Business Opportunity Scams
A leaflet or advert offers money to be made from working at home or setting up an online business. It is made to sound attractive with benefits such as choosing hours of work and flexibility. The scheme requires upfront payment to register, get instructions or set up a website for example. If the scheme is to assemble goods or such like then the fraudsters will find faults with the work and not pay up. Many of them are pyramid selling schemes where the only money to made is by selling the scheme onto others, when in fact it is just a scam.
This type of advance fee fraud takes place when a company approves a fast loan from an applicant, typically in response to an advert or website, without any checking. A fee will be payable for ‘insurance’ for example and once that fee is paid by the victim they never hear from the fraudsters again.
Lottery Prize Draw Scams
The advance fee fraud victim is contacted by letter or email, which states they have won a large amount of money on the Spanish lottery, for example. They are asked to contact a person at the lottery company. Once they do, they are told that they cannot be paid their winnings unless they provide copies of identification documents and are even asked for bank details. Once these are provided their identities can be stolen, as can the contents of their bank accounts. The advance fee fraud comes into play when the fraudsters ask for a payment for various fees such as taxes, legal fees, banking fees, etc. Once this is taken they hear nothing else from the fraudsters about their ‘winnings’.
Career Opportunity Scams
Examples of this include bogus invention companies, publishers, model agencies, all of them promising a glittering launch of a career. The initial consultation is at the cost of an upfront fee. The promises are never delivered and the victim loses out on their ‘deposit’ on their career development.
Impersonation of Officials
Fraudsters impersonate official government departments such as Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise when they make demands for VAT or other taxes to be paid.
Online Dating Scams
Victims are targeted via dating agency websites or chat rooms. The fraudsters spend much time building up a false online profile (including model pictures) and building up an intimate online relationship with the victim. Once they have built that relationship and sympathy, the fraudsters will ask for help with something which requires money, for example a problem getting their Visa processed in order to visit the victim. If they have got the victim to perform sexual acts on a webcam they may well begin to blackmail that person in order to get money out of them.
Prospective tenants, often students, are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property. The property does not exist, has been rented out to someone else, or been rented to various and multiple victims at the same time. The victim loses the ‘deposit’ and has no property to move in to. Students are often targeted, particularly those coming from overseas who have little knowledge of the UK or the potential rental scam.
Fraud Recovery Fraud
Those who have been victims of fraud previously are targeted by fraudsters claiming they can recover the money lost. They may ask for admin or release fees. They may provide various reasons for not being able to get the money back and asking for more fees or note being able to return the fees, such as they are under control of a court or some such excuse. Often they will attempt to obtain bank details of the victim so that they can clear their bank account.
The victim is contacted and told that a person with their family name has died and left behind a huge sum of money for the victim. They may well pretend to be a lawyer from overseas, stating the money will go to the government if the victim does not act swiftly. They may again ask for money to pay for legal fees, banking or admin fees and this is the fraud. Once that fee is paid, nothing else is heard of them. Again, if bank account details and personal identification have been provided then they may be used to perpetrate further frauds upon the victim.
There are many more types of advance fee fraud scams and these are just a few examples. Basically, anything that is paid for upfront and never materialises due to fraudsters is an advance fee fraud.
If you are facing Advance Fee Fraud charges get in touch to speak with our experienced lawyers.