Advisory Warning No. 13 of 2012
5 July, 2012
ADVANCE FEE FRAUD SCHEMES
Tortola, British Virgin Islands – 5 July, 2012 – The British Virgin Island Financial Services Commission (the “FSC”) is warning all members of the public to beware of Advance Fee Fraud Schemes.
What is an advance fee fraud?
These types of schemes typically involve the perpetrator of the fraud targeting both individuals and groups as potential victims. The fraud scheme begins with a solicitation by email or letter seeking the assistance of the potential victim in the transfer of a substantial amount of money from overseas and into the victim’s bank account. As part of the background story provided by the perpetrators of the fraud, the need to transfer such a large amount of money may result from a war or other disaster, or to realize an inheritance following a death in the family. In order to receive the transferred monies, the victim is asked for his or her bank account details, and to make advance payments to the perpetrators of the fraud in order to pay various fees, taxes, legal and insurance costs, or even bribes. The victims are normally requested to make the advance payments as cash transactions through a money service bureau. In return, the victim is promised a substantial share of the transferred monies, often in the millions of dollars. In some cases, the victim is also asked to provide a signature to release the monies.
Recent development targeting BVI residents
More recently, perpetrators of advance fee fraud schemes have been targeting individuals and groups in the BVI through community or religion themed websites and chat rooms, as well as in social networking websites. Solicitations have been received from persons claiming to have a terminal illness, and who have no dependents or relatives, and stating a wish to donate all personal assets to a worthy religious or charitable cause. Again, advance payments are required from the victim to release the said monies, together with the victim’s bank account information.
No matter what background story is presented, the sole intention of the perpetrators of this type of fraud is to deceive victims out of their money. And in every case, the substantial monies promised by the perpetrators of the fraud simply do not exist. Once the perpetrators of the fraud are unable to squeeze any more advance payments from the victim, they move on with the victim’s money and are never seen or heard from again. And if the perpetrators of the fraud have the victim’s bank account information, attempts may be made to access and withdraw monies from the victim’s bank account.
How to avoid becoming a victim of an advance fee fraud
Following the recent proliferation of this type of fraud scheme targeting potential victims in the Territory, members of the public are urged to beware of the following:
· Scam emails and letters, and any unsolicited communication received through community web pages and chat rooms from unknown individuals.
· Persons who introduce themselves to you in unsolicited communication as “Prince” or “Minister” or “Doctor”. Look out for correspondence often containing spelling mistakes and bad grammar.
· Be wary of hardship or bad luck stories, particularly relating to a terminal illness or a death, as a reason for seeking your assistance in transferring a large amount of money.
· Think twice about responding to such unsolicited communication from individuals asking for your help to transfer large amounts of money overseas. Ask yourself why you have been selected to assist in the money transfer.
· You should not reply to tell the individuals to stop contacting you, as this only serves to confirm your identity, and encourages further communication.
· And finally, you should not release your personal bank account information to any person unless you are absolutely certain who you are dealing with.
What should you do if you think you have become a victim of an advance fee fraud?
If you have fallen victim to such a fraud, you can consider the following actions:
· If any advance payment has been made to such individuals, you should stop any further payments.
· If you have provided your personal bank account information, you should notify your bank immediately.
· You should also consider reporting the fraud to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, and the Financial Investigation Agency.
For more on this and other related fraudulent schemes, and additional information on how to avoid becoming the victim of a fraud, visit the website of the BVI FSC Financial Literacy Programme at www.moneymattersbvi.org
The FSC is issuing this Advisory Warning under Section 4(1)(l) of the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001.