Beware the Nigerian bank scam
I wish to go into business with you. I got your name and contact
information from the Ivorian Chamber of Commerce. I am the only
child of a wealthy cocoa merchant who was poisoned to death by his
business associates. Before he died, my father told me he had the
sum of $16.5 million left in an expense account. I would like you
to provide me with a bank account where this money can be transferred
and for you to serve as guardian since I am only 19 years old. I
am willing to offer you 15 percent of the total sum for your cooperation.
You poor kid! Of course I'll be glad to lend a hand! My bank account
number is ...
Sorry Ley, but I can't help you out. The reason is
yours is a scam, pure and simple -- one that Bankrate readers should
know inside and out.
The Internet has breathed new life into this venerable
con, which is so well known it has several names -- the Nigerian
bank scam, the advance-fee fraud and "419" after the section
of the Nigerian penal law that its perpetrators break. The ease
of sending e-mail has made it an increasingly popular ruse.
It can come in a variety of guises. In some cases,
like our pal Ley here, someone will get an e-mail or snail mail
asking for help with a huge pile of money. Usually, some sort of
foul play is involved (murder and mysterious plane crashes are apparently
popular among these folks). The correspondent generally lives in
an African country and desperately needs an American bank account
in which to safely place the cash. Other variations include government
overpayment of a business contract, solicitations for religious
groups or investors looking to back a company.
Things go sour quickly after that. Some scams ask
for upfront fees to help cover the cost of transferring the money
(this gig is known as advance-fee fraud). Others simply want a bank
account number in an attempt to gain access to your funds. Still
others ask for a Social Security number for so-called processing
purposes. No matter the bait, all such scams dangle the potential
for huge profits with a minimum of effort -- money that you never
It's essential that you keep an eye peeled for common
red flags surrounding these scams. Requests to send money, bank
drafts, bank account numbers or personal information are always
warning signs. The letters typically emphasize confidentiality and
an urgency to seal the supposed deal as quickly as possible.
It's such a common scam that the U.S. State Department
has issued a travel
advisory for Nigeria, warning people not to go there in pursuit
of illusory riches.
If, by chance, you receive one of these letters, do
not respond in any way, as any contact puts you at risk of being
scammed. If you get an e-mail, forward it to the Financial
Crimes Division of the U.S. Secret Service. If it's a letter
on paper, fax a copy of the letter to (202) 406-5031. If you've
already been taken for money, contact a local Secret Service office
Oh, and by the way, Ley, sorry about your poor Dad.
But at least he didn't live to see his only "son" stooping
to this sort of pathetic chicanery.
-- Posted: Aug. 6, 2002