Fact Check

FBI ATM Cards Scam

Is the FBI offering 'ATM Cards' to help victims recover money from Nigerian scammers?

Published Jul 14, 2011

Scam:   The FBI is offering "ATM Cards" to help victims recover money from Nigerian scammers.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]

Federal Bureau Of Investigation ATM CARD PAYMENT NOTIFICATION
From: Federal Bureau Of Investigation (robertmueller@fbi.gov)
Sent: Mon 9/01/08 9:24 AM
Reply-to: atm_card_centre303@hotmail.com

Anti-Terrorist and Monitory Crimes Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J. Edgar. Hoover Building, Washington D.C
Telephone Number : ( 202 )-324-3001


This is to Officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly completed an Investigated with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you are having an illegal transaction with Impostors claiming to be Prof. Charles C. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Mr Frank Nweke, none officials of Oceanic Bank, none officials of Zenith Bank and some impostors claiming to be the Federal Bureau Of Investigation agents. During our Investigation, it came to our notice that the reason why you have not received your payment is because you have not fulfilled your Financial Obligation given to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment.

So therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry Of Finance on your behalf and they have brought a solution to your problem by coordinating your payment in the total amount of $800,000.00 USD which will be deposited into an ATM CARD which you will use to withdraw funds anywhere of the world. You now have the lawful right to claim your funds which have been deposited into the ATM CARD.

Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been involved in this transaction, you are now to be rest assured that this transaction is legitimate and completely risk-free as it is our duty to Protect and Serve citizens of the United States Of America. All you have to do is immediately contact the ATM CARD CENTER via E-mail for instructions on how to procure your Approval Slip which contains details on how to receive and activate your ATM CARD for immediate use to withdraw funds being paid to you. We have confirmed that the amount required to procure the Approval Slip will cost you a total of $550 USD which will be paid directly to the ATM CARD CENTER agent via Western Union Money Transfer / MoneyGram Money Transfer. Below, you shall find contact details of the Agent whom will process your transaction:


EMAIL: atm_card_centre303@hotmail.com
Telephone Number : +234-808-252-6229

Immediately contact Mr. Paul Smith of the ATM Card Centre with the following information:

Full Name:
Zip Code:
Direct Phone Number:
Current Occupation:
Annual Income:

Once you have sent the required information to Mr. Paul Smith he will contact you with instructions on how to make the payment of $550 USD for the Approval Slip after which he will proceed towards delivery of the ATM CARD without any further delay. You have hereby been authorized/guaranteed by the Federal Bureau Of Investigation to commence towards completing this transaction, as there shall be NO delay once payment for the Approval Slip has been made to the authorized agent.

Once you have completed payment of $550 to the agent in charge of this transaction, immediately contact me back so as to ensure your ATM CARD gets to you rapidly.

FBI Director
Robert Mueller.


Origins:   The message quoted above represents another slightly different turn on the venerable Nigerian Scam: Rather than providing straightforward bait to

lure new victims into the scam, it seeks to re-hook those who have already been snared once with yet another false promise of easy money.

The basic premise of the Nigerian Scam is that the target is offered a substantial cash reward for helping out with a transaction involving the transfer of a large sum of money (a transaction that usually needs to be kept hush-hush). However, the transaction never takes place, and the reward is never forthcoming; instead, the target is repeatedly called upon to shell out ever-increasing amounts of his own money to clear away a variety of fictitious roadblocks (e.g., legal fees, documentation fees, customs fees, taxes, bribes). This version of the Nigerian Scam targets those who have already participated in (or been victimized by) it, offering the lure of FBI assistance in recovering the rewards that victims were cheated out of the first time around ... all they need do is send $550 to the FBI for an "ATM CARD" that will allow them to tap into accounts holding $800,000.

If the numerous red flags in the basic version of the Nigerian Scam weren't enough to warn away potential victims, this variant adds several more factors that should give anyone pause about its legitimacy:

  • The FBI wouldn't acknowledge that you have been participating in "illegal transactions" with foreign nationals and then turn around and reward you for having done so. (They'd probably be hauling you off to custody and charging you with a half-dozen federal crimes.)
  • The FBI wouldn't be conducting criminal investigations and doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars via e-mail. (They'd be sending agents out to meet and talk with you personally.)
  • The FBI wouldn't help fraud victims recover legitimately owed monies and then turn around and charge them several hundred dollars to access those funds.
  • The FBI wouldn't be asking you to contact them by placing a phone call to Nigeria (as indicated by the "234" country code prefix to the phone number provided for "Mr. Paul Smith of the ATM Card Centre"). You'd be talking to an agent from a local or other U.S.-based FBI office.
  • The FBI wouldn't be collecting sensitive personal information from the public by asking them to provide that information via the extremely unsecure method of e-mailing it to a Hotmail account. (They wouldn't be asking for or collecting this kind of information via the Internet in the first place, and even if they were, at the very least they'd be using a secure web protocol with encryption rather than plain-text e-mail, and the collection method would be tied to an FBI web site and not a commercial e-mail provider.)

Last updated:   11 July 2011


    Espinoza, Richard and Dan Morgolies.   "Latest Net Scam Preys on Honest Folks."

    Charleston Gazette.   1 June 2003   (p. D7).

    Flaum, David.   "Scam Hits Sellers Over Net."

    The [Memphis] Commercial Appeal.   2 March 2003   (p. G1).

    Jones, Matthew.   "Beach Police Officers Warn of Fake-Check Web Scam."

    The Virginian-Pilot.   9 January 2003   (p. B4).

    Kades, Deborah.   "Wisconsin Residents Fall Prey to Used Vehicle, Lottery Scams."

    The Wisconsin State Journal.   12 December 2002.

    Kristof, Kathy M.   "Nigerian Money Con Targets Small Firms."

    Los Angeles Times.   7 September 2003  ; (p. C3).

    Associated Press.   "Missoula Credit Union Members Taken."

    15 March 2003.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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