Avoid the “Anti-Terrorism Clearance Certificate” Scam

In the last few months, I've received several e-mails requesting assistance in obtaining an "Anti-Terrorist Clearance Certificate."  They supposedly need the certificate to claim a monetary award, generally for US$100,000 or more, purportedly from an offshore source.

One writer, who I'll call Debbie, received a text message informing her that she had won $500,000 in a contest she didn't know she had entered.  The message instructed her to send a fax to a phone number in Latvia to claim her prize.

After she sent the fax, she received a message similar to the following:

"Dear Debbie,

This letter is to confirm that we have in our possession a CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT for $500,000 to be sent to you upon receipt of the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crimes (UNODC) anti-terrorist clearance certificate.

Please arrange with our colleague ____ to obtain this certificate so that we may release these funds to you.

Yours truly,

Lord Michael Ellis, Barrister"

At this point, Debbie became suspicious.  But, since $500,000 is, well, $500,000, she decided to investigate further.

She sent an email message to "Lord Michael Ellis" requesting the instructions.  The next day, she received a message instructing her to send $18,750 to cover the cost of the certificate.  The message stated that such a certificate had to accompany all international money transfers.

That's when Debbie contacted me.  And I told her what I'm about to tell you: this certificate is merely a variation of a very old fraud—the advance fee scam.

In an advance fee scam, a criminal offers you a large sum of money.  The catch is that you get it only after you pay a smaller amount to have the funds released.  Justification for the advance fee varies, but they're all fictions invented by criminals.  Once you pay the money, the criminal—and your money—disappear.

The bottom line: if someone tells you that you need to purchase an anti-terrorist Clearance Certificate to receive funds from abroad, it's a fraud.  Save your hard-earned money to invest in a legitimate opportunity—not an advance fee scam.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Nestmann

(An earlier version of this post was published by The Sovereign Society.)

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