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Fraudulent Investment and Other Scams

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  • Should individuals and businesses look out for fraudulent investment scams that misuse the World Bank's name?
  • Yes, individuals and businesses should take care not to fall victim to investment scams, known as Advance Fee Fraud schemes. Some of these schemes misuse our name or falsely claim to be affiliated with the World Bank Group.

    Many scams, known as Advance Fee Fraud schemes, originate in Nigeria and are known as "Nigerian scams" or "4-1-9" letters after the section of the Nigerian penal code that deals with this type of fraud. Other fraud schemes have originated in Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone.

    Police estimate that thousands of these solicitations are sent by fax or email every week and are addressed to individuals and companies around the world. Only a very small fraction actually involves the use of the Bank's name.

    Recently, two new fraudulent schemes have surfaced in South Africa. These involve solicitations to open a personal bank account at the Bank, which is not a commercial bank, as well as telephone messages left by perpetrators notifying potential victims that they have won money that can be redeemed at the World Bank.

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  • What forms do these fraudulent schemes take?
  • We've seen increased use of sophisticated forms and letterhead to send what appears to be legitimate World Bank Group correspondence, as well as several schemes that reference the Bank. Also, scam artists sometimes falsely represent themselves as Bank auditors or members of the Bank West African Regional Delegation.

    Recently, correspondence was sent by fax to creditors of West African governments, claiming that the senders were empowered by these governments to repay past debts. Official-looking Bank letterhead was used.

    Typically, the solicitations asked potential victims to provide personal information such as signatures or bank account information, and to pay certain advance fees, often described as "processing fees." In return, the potential victim was promised sums of money that the person soliciting the "fees" had no intention of paying. In some cases, those seeking the funds used the names of actual Bank staff members to sign the letters in order to bolster their credibility.

    Here's an example of such a scam using official-looking Bank letterhead and signature. See example (pdf).

    In South Africa, one new scheme involves notification in a message left on a cell phone that the recipient has won money to be paid by the Bank. The message directs the person to call a certain number to arrange payment. This scam was uncovered when the potential victim arrived at a Bank office in country seeking payment, because the telephone number in another country, which was left on the person’s cell phone, fortunately failed to connect.

    View an example (pdf) of this type of personal banking scheme.

    We have no involvement in such schemes, and we caution the public to be very wary of these and other similar solicitations that falsely claim to be affiliated with the Bank or any member of the World Bank Group.

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  • What should you do if you receive suspicious notifications about winning money to be paid by the Bank; faxes, emails, or other correspondence involving requests for money transfers or payments that reference the Bank or any member of the World Bank Group; or solicitations to open a personal bank account at the Bank?
  • If you receive what seems to be an unusual money request involving any member of the World Bank Group or have questions about whether any part of the World Bank Group is actually involved in a particular transaction, solicitation, notification, directive or request, please contact the World Bank's Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) to verify its authenticity. The department investigates fraud and corruption issues for the World Bank Group. There are several ways for the public or Bank staff to contact the department for assistance:

    Contact INT directly at Bank Headquarters:
    Telephone: 202-458-7677
    Fax: 202-522-7140
    Email: investigations_hotline@worldbank.org

    Use our hotline (1-800-831-0463) within the United States. Outside the United States, use the international AT&T operator to access the hotline. Please n ote: The hotline is maintained by an outside vendor, is open 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and offers multi-language translation services. Anonymous calls are accepted. Please be as specific as possible. Include at least the basic details of who, what, when, and where. Let us know how you can be reached, in case further information is required by investigators.

    Mail particularly sensitive information to:
    PMB 3767
    13950 Ballantyne Corporate Place
    Charlotte, NC, 28277
    USA

    See the Integrity Vice Presidency website.

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  • Fraudulent job postings and offers: What should you do if you receive a suspicious notification about a job posting or offer from the World Bank Group asking you to send money as part of the recruitment process?
  • There is a worldwide scheme involving fraudulent job postings and offers purporting to be from or associated with the World Bank Group. The scheme is used to falsely obtain money and/or personal information.

    The World Bank Group does not request any amount of money as part of its recruitment process.

    Official communication from the World Bank Group will always come from e mails ending in either @worldbank.org or @ifc.org. If you believe that you are a potential victim of a fraudulent job offer, please forward any related information you have received to abuse@worldbank.org.

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Updated: September 2009