Journal article Open Access

A Qualitative Analysis of Advance Fee Fraud E-mail Schemes

Holt, Thomas J. ; Graves, Danielle C.


Criminals utilize the Internet to perpetrate all manner of fraud, with the largest dollar losses attributed to advance fee fraud e-mail messages.  These messages come from individuals who claim to need assistance moving a large sum of money out of their country.  Individuals who respond to the messages often become victims of fraud and identity theft.  Few criminologists have examined this type of fraud, thus this study explores the mechanisms employed by scammers through a qualitative analysis of 412 fraudulent e-mail messages.  The findings demonstrate that multiple writing techniques are used to generate responses and information from victims.  Half of all the messages also request that the recipient forward their personal information to the sender, thereby enabling identity theft.  The implications of this study for law enforcement and computer security are also discussed.

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