It's been around so long that the Nigerian prince scam has become a punchline for jokes. Yet, the same kind of advance fee scheme is stealing millions of dollars from consumers every year. Whether the offer is made through email, mail, or by phone common elements of the scheme remain the same. An advance fee scheme is any type of fraud where you're asked to pay a fee in advance in order to collect a large sum of money or something of greater value later on. You may be asked to pay upfront taxes in return for money from an estate or lottery payout. You could be asked for legal fees or bribe money to free an innocent and wealthy foreign dignitary who upon release will shower you with their riches. While the basis of the scheme remains the same Variations of this type of fraud are only limited by the imagination of con artists around the world something that should never be underestimated. Following a few simple guidelines can help keep you from falling victim to an advance fee scheme. Do your research. Often, each specific scam is targeted at hundreds or thousands of people. That means an internet search of details from the offer will likely turn up reports of the scam. If someone representing a company contacts you you should be able to contact that company by a publicly listed phone number or address. Never use one provided to you by a company you're unfamiliar with. Also, verify that you're doing business with a legitimate company before you offer up any sensitive information. If you're ever in doubt about the legitimacy of a person or company, seek legal advice from a competent attorney. An attorney can help protect you from unfair agreements and fraud and if the deal does work out, just look at it as a cost of doing business. In the end, an old saying still holds true. If an offer or opportunity seems too good to be true it probably is.