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Advance Fee Fraud Scam Letters & Lottery Scams

Introduction / Process to follow / Legal Instrument / Cost / Forms to be completed / Location and Contacts


The so-called Nigerian Letter Scam is intrinsically an advance fee fraud. The fraud is also known as the "419 scam" and is operated by a fraudster, usually a member of a criminal syndicate. These scams originated from Nigeria but syndicates of other countries have become involved in advance fee fraud scams.

The scam is initiated with the fraudster contacting a targeted company, either by fax, mail or e-mail. A business proposal is made, usually by a syndicate posing as senior government officials. The fraudsters claim that they are in possession of a large amount of over-budgeted money, usually American dollars. The proposal entails the transfer of the over-budgeted money to a bank account outside of the country where the scam originates, which is that of the targeted company. The person receiving the correspondence is generally promised between 20 to 35 percent of the money to be transferred as commission for the use of his/her bank account.

The money is obtained from the victim in a number of ways, such as:

  • Requesting the victim to deposit money into a specified bank account to help cover expenses for completing the deal;

  • Once the original fee has been paid, "complications" may arise which necessitate the payment of more fees;

  • Organising a meeting in certain countries and, once the victim is in the said country, his passport is confiscated and he/she is detained until sufficient payment is received;

  • Using the bank details on official letterheads to transfer money out of the victim's bank account and into an account under the control of the criminals.

A lottery scam is initiated by the fraudster contacting individuals randomly, normally by e-mail. The fraudster poses as an official of a Lottery Company and advises the individual that he/she won a lottery to which the individual never purchased a ticket. The winning numbers are quoted in the correspondence and although the Lottery Company to which the fraudster claims to belong may exist and the numbers be the winning numbers (these are published by the Company), this is a scam. The same methods are used as with the 419 scam to extract money from the intended victim.

Process to follow

  • Upon receiving a scam letter, all documentation, information and correspondence should be forwarded to Interpol. Interpol will liase all matters regarding scams with the Commercial Crime Unit of the South African Police Service. Interpol's contact details are as follows:

    Tel No: (+27) 12 309 3866
    Fax No: (+27) 12 309 3003/4
    E-mail: vdventera@saps.org.za

  • South African citizens and residents.

    o State whether there has been "No Financial Loss" or "Financial Loss" on the documents received and forward them to Interpol.

    o Provide your contact details and telephone number(s) or of the individual(s) affected.

  • Foreign citizens and residents:

    o Fax a copy of the "419" correspondence received to Superintendent Anso van Deventer or the nearest South African High Commission/Embassy/Consulate-General for onward transmission to the South African Police Service.

    o Furnish banking data (if applicable).

    o State whether there has been "No Financial Loss" or "Financial Loss".

    o If there is a South African connection to the "419" operation, state clearly all relevant details.

    o Provide your contact details and telephone number(s) or those of the individual(s) affected.

  • Additional information pertaining to these scams is available on the South African Police Services website at www.saps.org.za (link) where details pertaining to the operation of the scheme, indicators of a possible scam, the number of ways in which money is obtained from the victim, as well as precautionary measures are outlined.

  • Progress reports will not be submitted to individuals where there has been no financial loss. However, it is important that the South African Police Service still be furnished with copies of the "419" scam letters for inclusion in their database.

Legal Instrument

The Branch of the Commercial Crime Unit and the Minister of Trade and Industry have criminalised the 419 Advance Fee Scam letters and gazetted this in Government Gazette No 22459 of 13 July 2001 and General Notice No 1643 of the same date.


Service is free

Forms to be completed

None. It is important to indicate on the documentation if a financial loss was incurred.

Location and Contacts

Tel No: (+27) 12 309 3866
Fax No: (+27) 12 309 3003/4
E-mail: vdventera@saps.org.za

SAPS website: www.saps.gov.za/crime_prevention/commercial_crime/419_scams/419_index.htm

To add value and improve consular services to the public, this consular site is constantly under construction. For consular related services, information and enquiries you are not able to find on this site, please contact the Chief Directorate Consular Services or the Webmaster.

Last updated: 31 July 2006
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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa