One of the nation's longest-running scams is taking on new twists,
reports the Better Business Bureau. Known as Nigerian letter scams,
these "fund transfer" frauds reach intended victims by fax, letter or
e-mail. The sender, who claims to be a government official or member of
a royal family, requests assistance in transferring millions of dollars
of excess money out of Nigeria and promises to pay the person for his
or her help. The message is always of an “urgent, private” nature.
Those willing to assist are asked to provide their banking account
number (for "safekeeping" the funds) and Social Security number, birth
date, or other personal information. Or they are asked to send money to
the letter-sender for taxes and various fees. Victims never see their
money again, and the con artist obtains the ability to empty their bank
account and/or steal their identity.
Folks laugh at the insanity of falling for such a fraud, but
the FBI reports annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes.
Some victims have actually been lured to Nigeria, where they were
of this con are attracting the attention of a new batch of victims.
BBBs advise people to be leery of the following:
Beneficiary of a will: An e-mail claims that you are the named
beneficiary in a will, to inherit an estate worth a million or more.
Your personal financial information is needed to "prove" that you are
the beneficiary and to speed the transfer of your inheritance.
cashier checks: People who have advertised an item for sale on the
Internet are contacted by an interested buyer from Africa or another
country, who sends a counterfeit cashier check or international money
order for an amount much larger than the asking price. His explanation
varies as to why the amount is that large. Nonetheless, the seller is
asked to deposit the check into their banking account, and wire the
difference to the purchaser. Those victims that do not wait for the
bank to verify the legitimacy of the check, and wire the money as
requested, can end up losing thousands of dollars. Be aware that it can
take a week or more for banks to receive word that a check is fake.
solicitations: Some e-mails request "donations" to fight an evil
government or dictatorship in Africa. The sender requests the
recipient's bank account in order to withdraw the donation directly
from the bank and obtain immediate access to the "much-needed"
- Fake web sites: The scam artist sets up a
fake online bank and "deposits" the millions of dollars referenced in
his pitch. When the victim starts expressing doubt about the existence
or size of the fund transfer that is to take place, he is directed to
the site, which shows a multi-million dollar deposit.
Consumers can take steps to protect themselves against the Nigerian letter scam and its variations.
If you receive a letter from Nigeria, or any other country, asking you
to send personal or banking information, do not reply! The BBB suggests
you immediately delete or throw away any such correspondence.
you have already responded to such a plea, or if you know someone who
is corresponding in this scheme, contact the U.S. Secret Service as
soon as possible (phone: 202.406.5572 or e-mail email@example.com).
individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials
asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank
- Be leery when strangers are eager to place
unexpected, large amounts of money at your disposal, in exchange for
your bank account number or other personal or financial information.
checks and money orders can be counterfeit. When a stranger sends a
check or money offer to purchase a product or service from you, consult
with your bank about the time it will take to verify the check, and
wait for the funds to clear.