The Nigerian E-mail scam, the 419 scam, the Advanced Fee scam…whatever it is called, this old scam has new victims.
The Nigerian e-mail scam has been around for and reported on for years so it may seem surprising that it is still being tried. What’s more surprising than that, is that the Nigerian e-mail scam is still being used, is that it is still successful in scamming people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The original scam was sloppy but yet still successful. The subject line read “Urgent Business Request,” and phrases like “top secret,” “trapped funds,” and “utterly confidential” were peppered throughout the e-mail. People were asked to help a person from a foreign country move large amounts of money and for their help they would get a percentage of the money. The percentage was substantial and there was just one catch. The soon to be victim would need to contribute a small amount of money to make this happen.
What’s the latest twist on the Nigerian e-mail scam?
The latest scam doesn’t come from a “prince” or “royal” person. Now the scammers claim to be related to the victims.
Janella Spears, of Sweet Home, Oregon is a nursing home administrator and CPR instructor and claims that she was not a likely or an easy target. However, the e-mail she received didn’t just promise her $20.5 million for her help, it also promised that the person she was helping was a long lost relative and the money had been left by her grandfather, J.B. Spears. This made Spears curious and was the part of the scam that was most persuasive in convincing her to help. The relative was only asking for a small amount of money to help and the promised reward was huge.
“That’s what got me to believe it,” She said. “So, why wouldn’t you send over $100?”
Spears is unsure how she became a target of the scam and how her personal family information was found to be used against her but the prevalence of easily accessible information on genealogy websites has become a concern. Genealogy websites have been used to commit identity theft crimes as well.
After the first $100 was sent through an untraceable wire service as directed by the scammers, the scammers built up Spears confidence and determination by sending her:
*Official looking documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and the United Nations
*E-mails assuring her that President Bush and FBI director Robert Mueller were also involved and needed her help
(Mueller name was spelled Muller, which should have been one tip off.)
* Letters claiming that terrorists would get the money if she didn’t help
While the scam started out asking for only $100, eventually Spears found herself out of $400,000. Even as bank officials and family members warned her that it was a scam, Spears mortgaged her home, ran through her husband’s retirement account and took out a lien against her car. She became obsessed with getting paid and that is exactly what these internet scammers are counting on.
Eventually her promised portion rose to $26.6 million dollars, if only she would send another $8,300. More promises always cost her more money.
The Nigerian e-mail scam has many new victims.
According to Audri Lanford, co-director of Scambusters.org, a service that helps fight Internet fraud, an estimated $200 million a year is lost to the Nigerian e-mail scam or variations of it.
An Australian woman claims to have lost over $1.7 million dollars to such a scam and
Mary Winkler, the Tennessee woman accused of killing her pastor husband, was also reportedly a victim of a similar scam. A 76-year-old woman from Florida also claims to have lost over $40,0000 that she wired to a person in New York and alleged employees of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Why do victims continue to send money?
An undercover investigator who worked on the Spears fraud case explains that victims are so desperate to recoup their losses that continue in the vicious cycle of this scam.
In addition to the long lost relative angle of this scam, there have also been new versions circulating that claim to come from a soldier in Iraq who needs funds transferred.
If you get an e-mail that seems too good to be true, you can bet your last dollar that it really is too good to be true and that is a safer bet than sending scammers your last dollar hoping to make millions.