Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

New Variant on Advance Fee Fraud

The "Nigerian" advance fee fraud is familiar to many: A supposed official from another country, most often Nigeria, offers you a large sum of money in exchange for some supposed assistance getting money out of their country. You end up paying endless "fees" to the scammer, and you never see anything in return. You may well find yourself the victim of identity theft.

Several ministers of small churches have reported that they had been contacted by "a woman in Africa who claimed that her husband had died, and that she wanted to leave some of his estate millions of dollars to a good church."

Pulling out all the fraudulent stops, she claimed that she'd "prayed for advice, had visited the minister's church's Web site, and had been told by God that his was the right church to donate to."

Later, a "lawyer" for the "war widow" contacts the minister, seeking information for the supposed donation to the church, but in reality collecting potential data for identity theft, as well as huge closing fees.

This scam is particularly well crafted because it pushes hard on the victim's "hot buttons," using all the right language. It focuses on creating a lot of credibility. For example, in addition to the lawyers calling as promised, the victim is given a private cell phone number so they can call the
supposed donor.

The bottom line: If you're promised a huge sum of money for any reason, think Nigerian Fee Scam first. Then, walk away. More on 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.