Local Business Owner Turns Down Order from Nigeria

July 29, 2008

Scamming Americans is big business in Nigeria. In fact, the 419 Coalition, which fights Nigerian fraud through education, estimates that fraud is the third largest industry in Nigeria.

It all began with the infamous Nigerian letter that invites you, an honest and respected businessman or woman, to help funnel funds out of Nigeria illegally, for a generous cash reward. The letters originally arrived by mail until the U.S. Postal Service began seizing them. Scammers instead turned to the Internet to reach thousands more people at less cost.

Now the Nigerian scam has multiple variations. One common version surfaced two weeks ago in Laramie. “Anne Morgan” of  “Femi Store Inc. in Lagos, Nigeria” contacted Buz Wick of Kalcon Electric by e-mail to purchase 30 defrost meter clock timers. Morgan had the complete part description and numbers in her request, but she didn’t seem to care how much it cost or what kind of a credit card Kalcon would prefer.

The first line of the order pretty much tells the whole story:
“Good-day Part dept,
My name is Anne Morgan. i will be happy to place an order for this refrigerator part namely below kindly let me know how long it will take you to special order the part and i will be interested in .30qty of this part number quoted in my mail.”

Sometimes the order comes by e-mail, sometimes through a relay operator for the hearing-impaired, but the red flags are always the same:
• The real person contacting you is unverifiable.
• The individual wants to place a sizeable order; is in a rush; and requests that it be shipped out of the country (not always Nigeria).
• Payment is offered either by credit card or by certified check.
• Spelling and grammar are poor.

Wick, owner of Kalcon Electric and member of the BBB Laramie Advisory Board, was savvy to the scheme, but thought it would be a good idea for the BBB to alert other business people. “No one likes to turn down a good order; but if it’s a scam it hurts not only our business, but the entire community,” he said.

The BBB suggests that businesses follow these practices to protect their company from fraud when dealing with international orders:
• Accept credit card payment only. Ask the customer to provide the name of the issuing bank and its toll-free number as printed on the back of all credit cards. Also ask for the three or four digit verification code on the back of the credit card.
• Tell the buyer that you will check with the bank and call them back before authorizing the sale. Verify all information, write it down and keep detailed notes.
• If the buyer objects, explain that these precautions are for their protection as well as yours. If they still object or refuse to provide the information, end the transaction.
• If the buyer insists on paying with a certified check, wait until the funds are transferred into your account before shipping the merchandise or issuing any cash payment to the buyer. It is not enough to have the bank accept the check; it may be counterfeit and could take weeks for the bank to determine it. If it is counterfeit you – not your bank – are liable.

If you suspect that you have been or are being victimized by a Nigerian scam, report it to the FBI’s White Collar Crime Task Force at www.ic3.gov. The more information you can get, the more it will help them in their fight against international fraud.

Start With Trust. Call your BBB to check for companies you can trust and for information about ones you shouldn’t. Visit www.bbb.org or call 800-564-0371.