Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud

Despite numerous warnings from this and other offices and agencies, the Nigerian e-mail scam continues to grow. The variations are numerous and have included war-related themes in the past. Most begin with a tale of political persecution, usually set in Africa, but other writers claim to be or to represent widows of political figures or philanthropists. The common theme is the existence of a large sum of money, which the intended victim of the scam can obtain merely by serving as a conduit for a financial transaction. The dead giveaway is that, before the victim can actually get the money, he or she must first send a sum of money ("advance fee"), which the scammer may say is for taxes, payoff money, transfer fees, or whatever, depending on the specific fiction. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the writer. The key is, do not send money to anyone in order to get a larger sum. This is not a business deal, not a prize you have won, not a fortune you have inherited, or any other kind of wonderful windfall. This is a very real attempt to rob you.

These e-mails actually do originate in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. The Financial Crimes Division of the US Secret Service has a task force that is investigating Nigerian advance fee fraud.


ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.