Fraud E-Mails Using FBI Letterhead
Recently, a number of unsolicited letters from Nigeria
were sent to various businesses throughout the United
States using FBI letterhead and the identities of
FBI officials as part of a mass marketing fraud
scheme. These letters appear to come from one or
more non-existing entities and is entitled "Memo
on Debt Payment." The letters advise that a
group called the "Debt Settlement Panel"
is the approved paying office in Nigeria. The letters
encourage individuals to deal exclusively with that
office. While most law-abiding citizens will recognize
these letters as obvious forgeries, it is important
to note that millions of dollars in losses are caused
to several individuals by these schemes each year.
fraud schemes combine the threat of impersonation
fraud and identity theft with a variation of an
advance fee scheme in which a letter or e-mail offers
the recipient the "opportunity" to share
in a percentage of millions of dollars that the
author, a self proclaimed government official, is
trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria. These
fraudulent letters have been received for a number
of years through the U.S. Mail and increasingly
are received through the Internet. The recipient
is encouraged to send information to the author,
such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and
account numbers and other identifying information
using a facsimile number, e-mail address, and telephone
number provided in the letter. Some of these letters
have also been received via e-mail through the internet.
The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim,
who has demonstrated a "propensity for larceny"
by responding to the invitation, to send money to
the author of the letter in Nigeria in several installments
of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.
Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials,
and legal fees are often described in great detail
with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed
as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria.
In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist
and the victim eventually loses all funds they provided
as a result of this solicitation. Once the victim
stops sending money, the perpetrators have been
known to use the personal information and checks
to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts
and credit card balances until the victim's assets
are taken in their entirety. In the past, some victims
have been lured to Nigeria or other countries, where
they have been imprisoned against their will or
assaulted, in addition to losing large sums of money.
The Nigerian government has created the Economic
and Financial Crimes Commission in an effort to
curb these and related schemes. One Nigerian subject,
Charles Dike, was recently extradited to Los Angeles
for his role in a telemarketing scam that he initiated
from Vancouver, British Columbia. However, the problem
is so pervasive that is difficult for Nigerian law
enforcement to arrest, prosecute or extradite all
that are involved in these schemes. This problem
is exacerbated by the number of Nigerian émigrés
who are operating these schemes from other countries
such as Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, England,
and other African nations.
Tips to Avoid International Mass Marketing Fraud
you receive a letter, e-mail or telephone solicitation
from another country asking you to send personal
banking information, do not reply in any manner.
Provide the information to the FBI as soon as
you know someone who is corresponding in one
of these schemes, encourage that person to contact
skeptical of individuals representing themselves
as Nigerian, other foreign government officials,
or claiming to be the FBI, U.S. Customs or the
Internal Revenue Service asking for your help
in placing large sums of money in overseas bank
accounts or asking for advance fees so that
you can collect any funds or alleged winnings.
not believe the promise of large sums of money
for your cooperation.
your account information carefully.
Individuals receiving these letters or other forms
of solicitations are encouraged to report this criminal
activity to their local FBI Field Office. The telephone
numbers are located in local telephone books and
can also be obtained on the Internet by accessing
the FBI's official Homepage: http://www.fbi.gov.
Additionally, the information can be reported to
the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) via the