Advance fee scams are a type of fraud in which scammers promise you a large sum of money or other benefit, but only if you pay them an upfront fee. These scams are often very convincing, and they can target people of all ages and backgrounds.
How Advance Fee Scams Work
Advance fee scams can take many different forms, but they all work in the same basic way. The scammer will contact you and offer you something that sounds too good to be true, such as a large inheritance, a high-paying job, or a winning lottery ticket. However, in order to receive the promised benefit, you must first pay them a fee.
Scammers will often use high-pressure tactics to get you to pay the fee quickly. They may tell you that the offer is only available for a limited time, or that you need to pay the fee immediately in order to secure your prize.
Once you pay the fee, the scammer will either disappear or start asking you for more money. They may make up new fees or claim that there have been unexpected delays. No matter how much money you pay, you will never receive the promised benefit.
Common Types of Advance Fee Scams
Some of the most common types of advance fee scams include:
- Nigerian prince scam: The scammer tells you that they are a Nigerian prince or other government official who is trying to move a large sum of money out of the country. They offer to give you a share of the money if you can help them transfer it.
- Lottery scam: The scammer tells you that you have won a lottery jackpot, but you need to pay a fee to cover taxes or other expenses before you can claim your prize.
- Work-from-home scam: The scammer offers you a high-paying job that you can do from home. However, you need to pay a fee to cover training or startup costs.
- Investment scam: The scammer promises you high returns on your investment, but you need to invest a certain amount of money upfront.
- Overpayment scam: The scammer sends you a check or money order for more than you owe them, and then asks you to wire them the difference.
Red Flags of Advance Fee Scams
There are a few red flags that can help you identify an advance fee scam:
- The offer sounds too good to be true. If someone is offering you a large sum of money or other benefit for very little effort, it's probably a scam.
- You are asked to pay an upfront fee. Legitimate businesses and organizations will never ask you to pay an upfront fee in order to receive a benefit.
- The scammer is high-pressure. They may tell you that you need to act now or that the offer is only available for a limited time.
- The scammer asks you to pay in a non-refundable way. They may ask you to wire them money, pay with a gift card, or send them a money order.
How to Avoid Advance Fee Scams
The best way to avoid advance fee scams is to be skeptical of any offer that sounds too good to be true. If you are asked to pay an upfront fee, don't do it. Instead, report the scam to the authorities.
Here are some additional tips for avoiding advance fee scams:
- Do your research. If you receive an offer from an unknown company or individual, take some time to research them online. See if there are any complaints about them from other people.
- Never give out your personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask you for your bank account number, Social Security number, or other personal information over the phone or email.
- Be careful about what you click on. Scammers often send phishing emails that contain links to malicious websites. If you click on one of these links, your computer could be infected with malware or your personal information could be stolen.
If you think you may have been a victim of an advance fee scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/. You can also report the scam to your local law enforcement agency.