It looks like 2009 was a banner year for Nigerian advance-fee scam artists, who according to investigators, duped people in the U.S.
out of more than $9.3 billion.
The scams vary, but mostly involve sending out e-mails giving people a chance at a huge amount of money in exchange for paying a fee. The scams, also known as 419 scams for the Nigerian criminal code statute, target victims all over the world.
In addition to e-mails, the scam artists have also been known to send out official-looking letters and faxes, complete with government stationary. But, by far, the mode of distribution now is mass e-mails.
In these schemes, someone pretending to be a Nigerian official or business-person claims to need assistance to wire millions of dollars out of Nigeria and in exchange will give the person a percentage of that money to keep. Another variation is to claim someone can inherit millions of dollars because the law firm in charge of a massive estate cannot find any relatives, and so are willing to give someone with the same last name all the millions. Yet another scam involves an e-mail claiming you have won millions in a lottery, but to get the money, you must send them cash, which they claim is for legal expenses or taxes.
Incredibly, thousands of people have fallen for this scam, some losing thousands of dollars. The global recession, which is fueling some desperation, is fertile ground for such schemes.
These schemes are so prevalent that the U.S. Secret Service has set up a task force whose sole duty is to investigate this crime.
The scam artists are getting more sophisticated, as well as more fluid with their scams. For example, only two weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, criminals set up an advance-fee scam targeting Haitians hoping to get out of Haiti. The scheme offers Haitian Americans documentation they need to bring family members still living in Haiti to the United States. The documents, which cost $500, are completely false.
If you receive such an e-mail, don’t respond to it, simply delete it. Even if you are sending back the e-mail with a message that you know it’s a scam, you are giving them your personal e-mail address and leaving yourself open for more such e-mails.
Apparently, success is breeding copy-cats, because these types of scams, though still mostly in Nigeria, are spreading to other countries. At the same time, the scam artists, who have spent most of their efforts targeting Americans and the British, are now setting their sites on China and India.
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Copyright (c) Brian Durham. Brian Durham is an Internet Marketer and author who writes articles on subjects including email scams and how to avoid them.You can see more of Brian’s articles at http://ScamOfTheDay.com/