When the Better Business Bureau’s office is included in a ‘fax’ blast that hit statewide, you know it’s desperation on the part of someone.
The Nigerian scam, named so because of its popularity in the 1980s when then President Shehu Shagari was in power. A letter was first delivered and a promise of wealth detailed for compliance in helping transfer money out of the country.
The sender, generally claiming to be a government official, member of a royal family or someone of status, 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.
The fraud went from postal delivery to faxes to email and most recently text messages. The request for assistance generally seeks a banking account number – to "safekeep" the funds – and Social Security number, birth date, or other personal information. Most recently, victims are asked to send money to the letter-sender for taxes or 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.
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 imprisoned or even worse killed.
Variations of this con are attracting the attention of a new batch of victims.
BBB serving the Snake River Region received numerous copies of the “fax” from and calls asking if the BBB was aware of them.
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.
• If 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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Ignore individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
• 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.
• Cashier 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.