Legal Scams - Attorneys (or people misrepresenting themselves as attorneys) promising sentence reductions in exchange for large sums of cash have been sprouting up, and many family members of inmates have been duped in these scams. The range of money is typically in the thousands. If you receive such a notice or suspect fraud, be sure to report it to the appropriate authorities (e.g., state's attorney, postmaster).
Photo Scam - This is a common scam attempted by people in the free world, which usually targets male inmates. Females write to an inmate and initiate conversation. In the letters to follow, they will express their desire to send photos, but state that they don't have the funds to pay for them. They will offer to send photos to the inmates if the inmates are willing to pay for them. Most inmates who send a money order in this case never receive photos or further correspondence from these people. They have completed their scam and have moved on to their next victim.
"Nigerian Oil Scams" - This has been the term coined by the media for emails, letters, and faxes sent to unsuspecting citizens, in most cases from supposed members of royal families. They will usually involve a very drawn-out explanation regarding why they have solicited your aid. As the scam progresses, the scammers request blank, signed business letterhead and invoices; bank account numbers; bank addresses, phone and fax numbers; and money to cover transaction expenses. Please note that these scams are not exclusive to Nigeria. They come from all over the world.
Some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam include:
Any offer of a substantial percentage of a large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your 'discretion' or 'confidentiality';
Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose authenticity cannot immediately be established;
Solicitation letters claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high Nigerian (or other) officials;
Requests for payment in U.S. dollars, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by 'a reliable contact';
Promises of advance payment for services to be provided to the Nigerian (or other) government;
Claims that a Nigerian visa is not necessary or that arrival in Nigeria should be overland from a neighboring country;
Resistance by these Nigerian 'partners' when you ask to check in with the U.S. Embassy;
Any offer to supply crude oil; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
The indicators listed above are some of the most common and reliable hallmarks of scam operations. Scams may include one, some, or all of the above. The list is not all-inclusive, and scam operators are constantly weaving new elements into their schemes. It is recommended that you never disclose personal information (account numbers, etc.) via postal mail, which could put you in jeopardy.