Arrow back

Advance Fee Fraud: The Complete Guide

04 February, 2020

If someone offered you £5,000 in exchange for £50, would you do it? While you might spot the scam, hundreds of people are being caught out every day online, losing their hard-earned cash to cybercriminals.

In this blog post, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about advance fee frauds, including what it is and how to spot an attack before you fall victim.

What Is Advance Fee Fraud?

Advance fee fraud is a type of scam where a criminal pretends to be someone else and offers a large sum of money in exchange for a significantly smaller, one-time fee.

Fraudsters play on an array of emotions when attempting to steal your cash. They’ll often talk up an ‘incredible opportunity’, which will result in you being rewarded a large sum of money. In the same breath, the fraudster will tell you that the ‘incredible opportunity’ will soon expire, evoking a sense of urgency and making you act rashly.

It’s a saying as old as sin, but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How Can You Spot an Attack?

Some scams will be easier to spot than others. If someone emails you claiming to be a foreign Prince in need of a loan to release his gold reserves, then you’ll probably figure out that something’s not right.

However, if a cybercriminal has done their research, it can be trickier. It all comes down to how advanced the attack is.

There are, however, some tell-tale signs that can help you detect these fraudsters straight away:

Unsolicited Communication

Generally, unsolicited communication is a good sign of advance fee fraud, so you should always be suspicious of emails from people you do not know that arrive from out of the blue.

However, if fraudsters do their research, they may pretend to be from an organisation you trust, offering a promotion you’re interested in. Remember, you should independently visit the organisation’s website or contact them directly to confirm any promotions you may have been sent.

Unbelievable Offers

Very few things in life are free, especially money. As nice as it might seem, no one is going to make you rich for nothing, and you should question anyone who is offering to.

Asking for Payment

If an email is asking for payment, then it’s very clear what the sender wants. Regardless of what they are offering, asking for payment is a strong indicator of advance fee fraud.

Illegitimate Links

If you receive an email that looks in any way suspicious, remember not to click on any links without first checking that they are real. You can hover your cursor over a link to reveal its destination before clicking. This is a good habit to get into generally, especially when using work accounts.

Spelling and Grammar

Legitimate organisations tend to draft emails several times before sending them out, so spelling mistakes are a great way of detecting fraudsters. People receive so many emails each day that criminals bank on you not properly reading their messages. Take the time to carefully read your emails and be wary of mistakes.


As previously mentioned, fraudsters will always imply that there is a time limit to their unbelievable offer. This is all part of their plan. They don’t want you to go away and think about the legitimacy of their offer. They just want you to act and send them your money as quickly as possible. Remember, any unsolicited communication that is trying to make you do something in a rush should not be trusted.

Back to resources

Ready to build your cybersecurity culture?

Whether you’re looking for complete culture change, phishing simulations or compliance training, we have solutions that are tailor-made to fit for your organisation.

Girl with laptop
Boy with laptop
man and woman with laptops
Global Cyber Alliance