In this increasingly common scam, you receive an email or letter offering you an enormous sum of money in exchange for your assistance in getting the money out of a foreign country.  The fraudsters ask for your bank account information so that they can deposit money into your account, but instead they empty your account.  Or, they ask you to send money to them in order to cover the cost of the transfer.

The story behind this scam is usually based upon some type of misfortune in a foreign country, like the overthrow of a government that has resulted in a huge sum of money being held by someone who needs to transfer the money to another country but needs a recipient with a bank account to receive the money.  A share of the money is offered to anyone willing to help with the transfer.

In another typical scenario, the letter or email that you receive is allegedly from a government official, accountant or banker, or from the relative of a deceased or deposed politician.  It may be in the form of a letter that is marked ‘Urgent’ or ‘Strictly Confidential’.  Like all letter scams, it offers to share an enormous sum of money with you if you allow the money to be transferred to your bank account.

Another form of the letter scam is the story of a wealthy person in a foreign country who is terminally ill and doesn’t want his relatives to squander his wealth.  This person has no heir and wants to keep the money away from those who would take it following his death.  The person may even claim to be deeply religious and looking for someone to accept the money and distribute it to charities, after of course taking a share for him or herself.

Anyone who is gullible enough to reply to one of these letters by sending personal and banking information will be sent fake documents such as banks statements that are supposed to prove that the money is real and is being sent to you. The money does not exist and you will never see it!

This is a scam that has been operating for a considerable length of time, which suggest that it has proven to be successful for its perpetrators.  The letter scam often originates from parts of Africa, although it has been known to have other sources as well, as other scammers try to take advantage of what they see as a lucrative moneymaker.  Similar versions of this scam have appeared that have originated from the USA.

Most frequently this scam arrives in the form of an email.  These emails fall under the category of ‘phishing’ emails and should be reported whenever possible.  Some email providers such as Hotmail have a function that allows you to report phishing emails to assist authorities in their efforts to stop them.