FAQ and Support

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Who are the Artists?

We are an international community of individuals dedicated to fighting advance fee "419" fraud through artistic means! The images on this site are loaded from fraudulent Web sites that are being used in active scams, defrauding people of their money; by visiting this site, you are costing a scammer money.

What sort of sites are these "fake banks"? Are they really illegal?

Fake banks are the infrastructure of advance fee fraud scams. (Wondering what advance fee fraud is? Find out here.) By posing as a legitimate financial institution, a bank site can adds credibility to the story of a scammer. For example, Mariam Abacha might have deposited her millions of dollars with this "bank", and puts you in touch with the "banker" there to help transfer the money. Then, he is the one who will charge fees for various procedures, licenses, certificates, and so on.

In addition to trying to perpetrate fraud, these fake bankers violate numerous national and international laws just by posing as deposit-holding companies. Banks are required to be registered with the Financial Services Authority, Central Bank, or other regulatory agency in all countries in which they operate.

Why don't you report these sites?

We do! Every site in our database is investigated, and if it is proven false, we report it to the current Web site host, the police, and to other official bodies. The Artists want to stop Internet crime, and willingly cooperate with anyone who will help the fight. Over 95% of the fake sites that we find and report are taken down by the hosts without incident.

Why aren't these criminals arrested?

The scammers hide behind false identities, use mobile phones and public Internet cafes to conduct their "business," are often ignored by corrupt local officials, and are well out of the jurisdiction of your local police force. The Artists do work with law enforcement whenever possible and have forged strong ties with http://www.419legal.org which is run by the South African Police Service (SAPS). SAPS has made several 419-related arrests and is working hard to ensure that South Africa is not fraud-friendly.

What is a flash mob?

Sometimes a Web host will ignore the evidence that a site is fake and refuse to act against it, although the existence of such a site is very often in clear violation of the host's own Terms of Service or Acceptable Use Policy. These sites become the focus of our regular flash mobs: with an intense letter-writing campaign and bandwidth usage, we seek to remind the host that these sites are fraudulent, and are created and operated by criminal gangs solely for the purpose of deception.

Bandwidth usage? Isn't that a Denial of Service (DoS) attack?

No. A DoS attack is intended to completely shut down a service on a network. It is often done by stealth (via IP spoofing, hijacked zombie machines, etc.) and affects many innocent parties. The flashmob is focused on a carefuly selected list of targets for a limited time and is done publicly with the full awareness and consent of the participants, with the goal of consuming the bandwidth quota or reminding the host of its presence. DoS attacks are illegal in many areas of the world, and the Artists do not condone illegal acts. We would prefer that all Web hosts took down the illegal sites as soon as they were notified of them; ultimately, this would make things easier for both us and them.

For more discussion on the flash mob and the techniques, see our Bandwith Theft page, or the Mugu Marauder FAQ.

How do you know that the site is fake?

Banks are carefully regulated by different authorities around the world. Simply checking a site against a regulator's list is sufficient evidence to show that such a site is illegal. Lotteries are subject to similar supervision. There are also many other possible indications that a site is probably fake; however, we prefer not to list them here, so the criminals will not learn how to disguise their fake banks better.

How can I find out if a site is a fake?

  • Look through our database of fraudulent sites. This is being constantly updated as new sites are identified and shut down. The gangs that create these sites often use the same business names, phone numbers, and designs on different sites.
  • There are a number of Online search tools that you can use to research banks and other types of companies.
  • If you have received an URL in e-mail and aren't sure about it, send it to us via our contact page. It might just be a fake we haven't found yet. Under no circumstances should you give money to someone just because you saw a Web page with your name on it!

I just won the lottery! I have millions of dollars in the bank! I am getting a shipment of gold dust!

These are all typical Advance Fee Fraud scams. To find out more about advance fee fraud, see what the U.S. Secret Service has to say: http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml

Also, see our links page which points to other resources about scams and scam-fighters.

The best rule of thumb you can follow is: if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Millions of dollars are lost every year by fraud victims, and this money is funneled back to the criminal gangs to fund their fraudulent activities. The fake sites we target are often paid for with stolen credit cards or victims' funds. Don't be a victim! Stop all communication with the scammers at once, and do not believe their stories.

Help! I think I'm being scammed! I lost money in a scam!

If you have already given money to a scammer, or suspect a scam, there are a number of sites that can help you:

Please be aware that the scammers will not rest: they will attempt to keep drawing money from you, using a variety of stories and tricks, including claiming that they can recover your lost funds. Scam victims are typically passed from gang member to gang member as each tries to work a new angle. The best thing you can do is stop all communication with them immediately.