The Better Business Bureau warns businesses not to be tempted by fraudulent letters from Nigeria that offer get-rich-quick schemes. These persistent schemes are nationwide: even Better Business Bureaus have received letters offering quick profits, sometimes in the millions.
The scheme, which has been perpetrated worldwide, targets small businesses, churches, and other non-profit organizations. A letter marked 'urgent' or 'confidential' arrives from Nigeria via mail, fax or email. The sender claims to be an official of a company or government ministry, or has an official-sounding name such as doctor, chief, lawyer, or prince. Some letters are written on government stationery.
Although each letter may contain a slightly different appeal, the 'official' asks for urgent assistance in transferring millions of dollars of excess money out of Nigeria. The person proposes depositing the money into a trustworthy bank account, in exchange for which the account-holder will receive 30 percent or more of the transferred funds. To participate in the deal, the business or organization must provide its bank account number and the name, address, phone and fax numbers of the bank. Sometimes the person requests copies of signed but otherwise blank company letterhead and pro forma invoices.
In a related scenario, a business may receive notification that it has been named as a beneficiary in the will of a wealthy Nigerian. The business then is asked to send necessary proofs of identity to secure the supposed gift.
Using the provided information, the con artists can then plunder the victim's bank account. Or they may try to get money directly by requesting exorbitant payments to cover transfer fees, travel expenses, taxes, or necessary bribes before the transaction can occur. Once the money has been wired, the scammers typically disappear and are hard to trace. Needless to say, no one has ever received the promised funds, and losses from participating in illegal foreign business deals are nearly impossible to recover.
Steer clear of the Nigerian Letter Scheme offering business opportunities, which has cost business victims millions of dollars and has left at least 15 North Americans missing or dead by being involved.
The Better Business Bureau advises anyone receiving such a letter not to respond. Instead, send the letter to your BBB. You can also send copies to PhoneBusters at WAFL@phonebusters.com. All other inquiries can still be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have already LOST funds in pursuit of the above described schemes, please contact the U.S. Secret Service in Washington D.C. at 1(202) 406-5850 or in Vancouver contact Robert Bond at (604) 689-3179. Repeating, this is to report LOSSES ONLY and not to authenticate any type of ongoing or anticipated business dealing. You should also contact your local police department and/or the RCMP. If you have received a letter, but have not lost any monies to this scheme, please fax a copy of that letter to (202) 406-5031. For further information on the Net, please check the Secret Service Advance Fee Fraud Warning at http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml.