Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Grassley Alerts Iowans to Watch Out for Fictitious Money Schemes

Feb 17, 1998

Grassley Alerts Iowans to Watch Out for Fictitious Money Schemes

Nigerian Crime Rings Target Elderly, Promise Big Bucks

Melissa Kearney


Alerting Iowans about "get-rich-quick" schemes that disguise fraudulent activity as authentic transactions of the Nigerian Government, Sen. Chuck Grassley today said a mass mailing solicitation known as "advanced fee fraud" poses serious financial risks to consumers and has been circulating in Iowa.

Iowans contacted Grassley's Senate office late last year after receiving written offers ostensibly from the Nigerian Government. They believed the official-looking mailings to be suspect, if not illegal. On their behalf, Grassley notified the U.S. State Department and discovered the extent of the fraudulent schemes was costly and widespread. State Department officials estimate Americans lose $100 million annually to Nigerian "advance fee" criminals.

"A lethal international crime ring is targeting unsuspecting individuals and businesses with the promise of big bucks," said Grassley. "These Nigerian money peddlers can trick individuals into forfeiting their personal bank information, company letterhead and substantial start-up fees in advance of receiving a financial windfall. The longer these international thieves can string their victims along, the more they stand to gain. Before the jig is up, so are the victim's hard-earned savings."

According to Grassley, the fictitious, non-solicited offers typically advertise substantial financial rewards via legitimate means such as lottery prizes, property purchases, inheritance gifts, crude oil investments, or other goods and services. "These are sophisticated con artists who use advanced technology to authenticate their documents to fool their victims," said Grassley.

Grassley issued the following consumer tips.

  • Be skeptical, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
  • Protect personal bank information as closely as your Social Security number;
  • Ask a friend, pastor, family attorney, or business associate to review the offer;
  • Be wary of travel requirements to Nigeria to seal the deal; and,
  • Don't be embarrassed, report suspicious offers to the local U.S. Secret Service field office, 637 Federal Building, 210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50309.

Grassley noted these illegal scams give a black eye to legitimate Nigerian business opportunities. These fraudulent scams are referred to as "Four One Nine (419)," derived from Nigerian criminal code which prohibits such activity.

As chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Grassley works to keep tabs on fraudulent activity that targets the elderly. "I will continue my investigation and work with the State Department to help raise public awareness about these fictitious schemes," said Grassley.

"I'm also concerned the money stolen from Americans may be funneled to finance Nigerian heroin trafficking organizations," he said. Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus.