Advance Fee Fraud is a rising type of Internet crime causing Internet users to lose significant amounts of money.
The expression ‘Advance Fee Fraud’ (AFF) describes fraud cases in which criminal fraudsters convince a victim that the victim has won a prize or been selected for a business deal with easy money to be gained and the only condition to obtain the gain is that the victim has to pay a small amount of money in advance. When the victim pays the fee, it will not bring him closer to receiving the gain. In fact, he only risks losing more money as the fraudster will be encouraged to recontact the victim to request the payment of additional fees for the same transaction. The explanations used by the fraudsters for demanding the additional fees are creative but still credible and may include the advance payment of bank fees for money transfers, payment of courier services to send the check, legal fees to have an attorney or notary prepare documents needed for the money transfer, or the advance payment of taxes on the prize.
To make their deception more convincing, the fraudsters are known to create fake courier companies, public notary firms, law firms, and provide them with domain names, phone numbers, email addresses to complete the deception. They will counterfeit trusted brands to convince the victim that the prize is plausible and real.
Enforcement against AFF is complicated by the fact that fraudsters commit their crime across borders and although the aggregated cases add up to very large crimes, the individual cases may not be large enough to meet the threshold for initiating an international investigation and subpoenaing evidence to identify the fraudsters.
The Advance Fee Fraud Coalition
The Advance Fee Fraud (AFF) Coalition was announced on October 28, 2008 by its founding members, Microsoft Corp, Yahoo! Inc, The Western Union Company and the African Development Bank, to raise global awareness among consumers of the threat posed by lottery hoax e-mails, a common form of advance fee fraud. The collaborative effort was designed to educate internet users so they are better able to protect themselves against fraudulent activities online. Because of the international and elaborate nature of advance fee fraud, the Coalition believes that no company, no law enforcement unit, no industry can solve this problem alone.
Subsequent to its founding, the Coalition has established a broad set of goals that range from providing preventive consumer education, streamlining the process of identifying accounts used by fraudsters to communicate and obtain payments, and identifying ways of driving enforcement.
The Coalition will work together to increase the public awareness on advance fee fraud as we realize that the more people learn about and understand this type of fraud, the fewer will be likely to fall victim to these frauds in the future. The coalitions’ information will be directed both at the users of our products and services, and also to the general public-- for example, by joining hands when possible with the AFF information campaigns of other organizations and with consumer protection authorities.
The criminals have been counterfeiting the trusted brands of the coalition members to fraudulently acquire the trust of victims, and now the AFF Coalition members aim to use their trusted brands to instead publicly warn potential victims of the risk of advance fee fraud.
Each AFF Coalition member seeks to identify service accounts or transactions used by fraudsters, so that appropriate action can be taken.
Members of the AFF Coalition are committed to improving their respective tools or processes for mitigating against advanced fee fraud through prevention and disruption.
AFF Coalition Members are committed to identifying appropriate enforcement opportunities, as well as to analyzing fraud patterns and trends. These may include investigations, civil lawsuits, or criminal referrals, depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.