Advance Fee Fraud

Advance Fee Fraud

Spanish Prisoner, 419 Scam

Any number


The Scam
The con artist convinces the victim to invest a sum of money with the promise of some sort of future return. This return may be in the form of money, product or other benefit. The con artist solicits this money with no intention or ability to deliver the promised return.

The advance fee fraud is the most popular scam operating today and, as such, can be found in a variety of different forms, aimed at differed victims with different results. These include:-

  • Romance Scam: The con artist pretends to be a long distance lover needing money for an airfare or other expenses.
  • Nigerian Letter Scam: The con artist asks for help transporting a large sum of money .
  • Modelling and Talent Agencies: The con artist promises a career in modelling if the victim pays for a portfolio.
  • Overpayment Scam: The con artist sends a cheque for a large order to a company then cancels and requests money be wired back before cheque has cleared.
  • Wired Payment: Ebay con artist claims pay pal and credit card systems are corrupt. Requests untraceable direct wire for payment of product that is delivered.
  • Animal Safety: The con artist claims to be saving dogs from slaughter overseas. Sends them 'free of charge' to western countries. Requests customs fee for a dog that is never sent.
  • Real Estate Fraud: The con artist sends the victim a deposit on a house and asks them to immediately forward payment onto their 'broker'. The deposit cheque bounces after the victim has sent the 'broker' his fee.
  • Bogus Escrow: The victim sends money to a third party to hold until the con artist delivers certain goods. The third party (or escrow) is a confederate of the con artist and the product is never delivered.
  • Sales: The victim must buy a sales kit from the con artist. The con artist will then pass on sales leads so that the victim can make more money. They rarely do. This is particularly prevelant in Work From Home scams.
  • The Spanish Prisoner: The name "Spanish Prisoner" comes from a 1588 scam in which the con artist would approach a wealthy victim telling them that a rich man of great title has been imprisoned in Spain. The Spanish do not know the rich man's true identity and, with the victim's assistance, the con artist wishes the bribe the jailers to let the rich man go. The victim invests in the rescue under the assumption that he will be richly reward when the prisoner is returned home.


Case Studies
David Mamet wrote and directed a film of the same name that, whilst featuring a type of advance fee fraud, did not actually feature the Spanish Prisoner.

The Spanish Prisoner is also a 1910 short story by Arthur Train.

Long con, internet, advance fee fraud, film

Created by Nicholas J. Johnson
Australia's Honest Con Man

For the best Edinburgh magicians and Edinburgh comedians click here.