This past week, BBB received three different letters that show the growth to Asia in the advance-fee fraud scheme.
Each letter details how a person – bank employee or business investment adviser – had discovered some previously unknown information about a prominent person who “bears the same name” or is a “possible relative.” The person claims a huge amount of money – in the tens of millions – will be turned over to the Chinese government if an heir isn’t found.
The “same-name” benefactor died or was killed in some remote location in China and didn’t leave a will (in one case, the entire family was killed). Two scenarios spread out from here: a) the man sharing the last name would pose as a relative and claim the investment; b) the investing adviser would create documentation and transfer the fund to the recipient’s newly created American-based bank account.
These people supposedly have long-established relationships with the deceased and managed his/her funds since the 1990s.
In one letter, the ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) with address in Spain and phone numbers are included in the letter. The other has an email address and a phone number.
This similar scam started in mid-80s when a ruling corrupt Nigerian government allegedly left millions of dollars and people (and later a supposed prince) were trying to transfer the money out the country. Big promises of sharing 30-50% of the money enticed people.
The Internet lowered the cost of sending scam letters, and scam emails have replaced paper. Recently BBB was swamped with calls about faxes from a man in Nigeria who was attempting to transfer money out of the country.
While Nigeria is most often the nation referred to in these scams, they may be originated in other nations as well. According to studies done in 2006, 61% of Internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, 16% in the United Kingdom and 6% to locations in Nigeria. Other nations, according to wikipedia, with a high incidence of advance-fee fraud include Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Spain.
The letters from China (they may actually be from another country) are well written with few grammatical or spelling errors.