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Advanced Fee Fraud (AFF)

Posted By IRMSAInsight, 24 March 2016

28 March 2016 


Advanced Fee Fraud (AFF)

Advanced fee fraud (AFF) is one of the most common confidence tricks known today and involves fraudsters convincing victims to ‘advance’ money, airtime and, more recently, to pay for unsolicited fees or services. This is artfully achieved by offering a large sum or some great benefit in return for a small ‘favour’ or intervention. These scam types are also sometimes referred to as “419 scams” having derived their name from the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with property obtained using false promises.


Although AFF have recently gained popularity these scams are by no means new although they have been reinvented for use within the digital arena given the increasing popularity and accessibility of smartphones and smart devices. Various forms of fraudulent emails, SMS messages, voice or communications via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, are now being used to search for ‘curious customers’.


Although it is impossible to keep abreast of and anticipate all new AFF scams, these scams generally involve unsolicited communications involving an offer will always seem too good to be true and which will require the victim to supply something up-front – money, cellphone details, personal information, etc. Should victims make this ‘advance’ or supply information, they’ll be no closer to receiving any gains.


AFF explained

Fraudsters that resort to AFF scam types use a range of ruses to lure in potential targets. These could include established scams such as news that you’ve ‘won’ the lottery or a random prize, inheritance claims, employment offers, affordable business opportunities, feigned interest in goods being sold, distress calls from relatives or friends or even false romantic offers or connections.


To most, these deceptions seem obvious and while they will not respond to these or entertain any requests, a large percentage of victims continue to fall for these scams as the messages are intended to expose our vulnerabilities and human desire to make ‘a quick buck’ (or to get something for free) and sometimes even target the social circumstances of the victim.


AFF scams are progressing with growing frequency and newer versions have become so evolved that they’re becoming more difficult to spot.


Here are a few recent variations:

  • An unsolicited message is received to sign up for a bargain or even ‘free’ service. Unknowingly, when responding, the victim is signing up for a service that will be charged by the carrier (and collected by the scammers).

  • An automated SMS or voicemail is received which encourages the receiver or potential victim to text a short code or USSD code to receive a free service or prize such as airtime or SMS bundles. The specified code will actually result in the victim being defrauded by transferring airtime.

  • A programme purporting to be an ‘antivirus’ app, but that is actually ‘ransomware’, is downloaded onto the victims phone. Instead of securing the device, it will lock it until a ransom is paid for an unlock code.

  • Malicious code installed on the phone prompts the device to order ring tones or wallpaper without permission. This will be charged by the carrier and the scammers collect the cash.

  • A message is received on the mobile alerting to security concerns on the device. The victim is offered software to clean up infected filed. Once installed, a subscription fee is levied for the software.

Avoiding AFF – guidelines

Although we cannot monitor and anticipate all new AFF scam types, there is one rule and, if you apply this, you’re likely to remain safe from AFF scam types. Do not provide money or personal information to strangers, no matter what kind of story they have to tell.

Below are some other guidelines that may also prove useful: 

  • Think before you click, whether responding to an SMS, voice message or an email on your device! Make sure that you’ve confirmed that a link is safe or that you verify the authenticity of a number before engaging.

  • Ignore unsolicited text, voice or email messages. Remember, there is no Microsoft worldwide promotion, you did not win the UK lottery and you were not randomly selected for an award or prize.

  • Check your service provider bills and your bank accounts regularly for unusual transactions, charges or for ‘missing’ funds.

  • If you receive unwanted messages or suspect fraud, register your complaint immediately.

  • When you receive a message that you believe to be a scam, report this to immediately.

  • Review your security settings on your phone and on other platforms to limit the threat. Be careful what you download onto your devices and who you allow access to.

    Where to report AFF's:
  • ISPA
  • SARS
  • Scambusters
  • MTN
  • Vodacom
  • Cell C

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Comments on this post...

Christelle Marais says...
Posted 29 March 2016
It would be interesting to understand whether this risk has manifested in an organization reacting to the scam? Have there been instances where organization's IP and/ or confidential information have been placed at risk due to AFFs?
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