Over the past few years, the SARB has been flooded with requests and calls for assistance from people who have fallen victim to criminal elements operating ‘advance fee fraud’ type scams, commonly known as ‘419’ scams.


Report all cross-border fraud and scams to sarbfnsdept@resbank.co.za


Advance fee fraud schemes/‘419’ scams

You or your company may have been the victim of a scam or fraud scheme if you were:

  • promised funds, by someone you have never heard of, in return for assisting someone to transfer millions of dollars;
  • advised that you are the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar inheritance;
  • advised that you are the winner of a lottery even though you never bought a ticket;
  • offered a fantastic business opportunity;
  • offered a confidential business proposal; or
  • offered an unsecured loan.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar and too good to be true – they probably are!


The SARB has, over the past few years, been flooded with requests or calls for assistance from people who have fallen victim to criminal elements operating ‘advance fee fraud’ type scams, commonly known as ‘419’ or ‘Nigerian letter’ scams. This type of fraud is referred to as ‘4-1-9’ fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes.

Despite the SARB’s efforts in assisting to help the South African Police Service to bring this scourge to an end, many people are still falling victim to these types of scams, usually due to a lack of knowledge. You need to be aware of the far-reaching consequences of these scams. Not only are people losing huge amounts of money, but that money is invariably being used to buy drugs for resale to the public or for financing terrorist activities in various countries.

The modus operandi of these scammers is simple and highly effective. This is how a typical scam letter works:

The perpetrator’s initial approach is normally via letter, email, mobile phone text message (SMS), a social networking site or faxed document, advising the potential victim that, for their assistance, they will receive a large percentage of a large amount of funds, usually dollars (and usually millions) that have been obtained as a result of some occurrence, for example inheritance, over-budgeted contract payment or lottery winnings. The message will stress that confidentiality must be maintained at all times. If the individual/entity responds to initial correspondence, the scam begins. The perpetrator will maintain communications and proceed to the next level of the scam.

Once the perpetrator receives a positive response to the initial letter of solicitation, the targeted person will be asked for their banking details, passport and identification number, and various other personal details. Communication between the victim and perpetrator continues until the final details of how and when these millions of dollars will be exchanged are agreed upon. At this stage, the victim is usually sent authentic-looking documents, allegedly signed by influential people (e.g. the Governor or any of the Deputy Governors of the SARB), and bearing the logo of the SARB or a version thereof, confirming that the millions of dollars are awaiting transfer to a nominated bank account.

However, prior to the release of the funds, the victim is required to advance money to obtain the alleged clearance documents (such as drug and anti-money laundering certificates, tax clearance certificates etc.). After the victim pays the required fees, the perpetrators ask for more fees. (The more money paid in respect of ‘fees’, the greater the loss for the victim). Payment of any fees is regarded as advance fee fraud and should be reported to law enforcement authorities.

The victim is now faced with the prospect of either losing the original fees paid or paying more fees in the hope of a bigger payoff. In this way, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or rands) may be swindled from a victim. The payoff, of course, never happens, because there never was any possibility of a payoff to begin with.

On many occasions the victim is asked to meet with the perpetrators to witness the signing of the final release forms. If the victim is unable to be present at the signing, the perpetrators will allegedly appoint a ‘lawyer’ or ‘barrister’ to act on the victim’s behalf. Again, more funds are required to cover the ‘legal fees’ that are incurred in preparing the clearance documents. Once the perpetrators have achieved their objective (to scam the victim of as much money as possible) communication lines are abandoned and the victim has no way of recovering the lost funds.

It is pertinent to mention that the SARB’s corporate identity has been previously ‘hijacked’ and has been abused by syndicates using scam letters in order to deceive people. The SARB has been falsely implicated in such matters. Victims have been lured into transactions where the documentation presented displays the logo or the name of the SARB. These falsified documents are intended to lull the recipient into believing that the documents that he/she has received are legitimate.

If you are in any doubt as to the authenticity of a transaction, please note the following:

  • The SARB does not maintain bank accounts on behalf of private individuals or entities. The SARB does not offer or operate online banking facilities nor does it maintain an Internet banking facility.
  • Documents relating to anti-money laundering or drug clearance certificates, tax clearances, marginal fluctuations, and the like are not issued by the SARB.
  • The SARB does not charge a fee for signing official documents.
  • People in the South African legal profession do not use the title of barrister.
  • The SARB does not appoint lawyers or attorneys to act on behalf of private citizens.
  • The SARB does not authorise the transfer of lottery payments or hold lottery money on behalf of the public.
  • The SARB’s cash centres and subsidiaries are based in South Africa; it does not have any branches or liaison offices offshore, nor do ‘agents’ in overseas countries act on its behalf.

More information on various types of scams/schemes can be obtained on the Internet at the following addresses: