Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A fool and his/her money are soon parted

Who'd have thunk it - there are definitely people who fall for the Nigerian email scams. Even worse, there are people who not only fall for it, but later flag their stupidity by making news out of it.

Woman out $400K to 'Nigerian scam' con artists
SWEET HOME, Ore. – Janella Spears doesn’t think she’s a sucker or an easy mark.

Besides her work as a registered nurse, Spears – no relation to the well-known pop star – also teaches CPR and is a reverend who has married many couples. She also communicates with lightning-fast sign language with her hearing-impaired husband.

So how did this otherwise lucid, intelligent woman end up sending nearly half a million dollars to a bunch of con artists running what has to be one of the best-known Internet scams in the world?

Spears fell victim to the "Nigerian scam," which is familiar to almost anyone who has ever had an e-mail account.

The e-mail pitch is familiar to most people by now: a long-lost relative or desperate government official in a war-torn country needs to shuffle some funds around, say $10 million or $20 million, and if you could just help them out for a bit, you get to keep 10 (or 20 or 30) percent for your trouble.

All you need to do is send X-amount of dollars to pay some fees and all that cash will suddenly land in your checking account, putting you on Easy Street. By the way, please send the funds though an untraceable wire service.

By this time, not many people will fall for such an outrageous pitch, and the scam is very well-known. But it persists, and for a reason: every now and then, it works.

For Spears, it started, as it almost always does, with an e-mail. It promised $20 million and in this case, the money was supposedly left behind by her grandfather (J.B. Spears), with whom the family had lost contact over the years.

"So that's what got me to believe it," she said.

Spears didn't know how the sender knew J.B. Spears' name and her relation to him, but her curiosity was piqued.

It turned out to be a lot of money up front, but it started with just $100.

The scammers ran Spears through the whole program. They said President Bush and FBI Director "Robert Muller" (their spelling) were in on the deal and needed her help.

They sent official-looking documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and even from the United Nations. Her payment was "guaranteed."

Then the amount she would get jumped up to $26.6 million – if she would just send $8,300. Spears sent the money.

More promises and teases of multi-millions followed, with each one dependent on her sending yet more money. Most of the missives were rife with misspellings.

When Spears began to doubt the scam, she got letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. Terrorists could get the money if she did not help, Bush’s letter said. Spears continued to send funds. All the letters were fake, of course.

She wiped out her husband’s retirement account, mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car. Both were already paid for.

For more than two years, Spears sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everyone she knew, including law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials, told her to stop, that it was all a scam. She persisted.

Spears said she kept sending money because the scammers kept telling her that the next payment would be the last one, that the big money was inbound. Spears said she became obsessed with getting paid.

An undercover investigator who worked on the case said greed helped blind Spears to the reality of the situation, which he called the worst example of the scam he’s ever seen.

He also said he has seen people become obsessed with the scam before. They are so desperate to recoup their losses with the big payout, they descend into a vicious cycle of sending money in hopes the false promises will turn out to be real.

Now, Spears has gone public with her story as a warning to others not to fall victim.

She hopes her story will warn others to listen to reason and avoid going down the dark tunnel of obsession that ended up costing her so much.

Spears said it would take her at least three to four years to dig out of the debt she ran up in pursuit of the non-existent pot of Nigerian gold.



Anders said...

Are you saying that I can't trust Barrister Smith John (Esq.) from Lagos, Nigeria whom sent me an e-mail offering to split 10 000 000 USD 60:40 with me? Dang!

Anders said...

Oh, what the heck. I'm posting Barrister Smith John's e-mail here, as an example of a Nigeria e-mail scam. Or example of a great opportunity. :-D
Dear Friend,

I sincerely apologize for intruding into your privacy, especially by contacting you through this means for a business transaction of this magnitude, but due to its seriousness and urgency it therefore became necessary for me to seek for your assistance. I am Barrister Smith John (Esq.), counsel to late Engr Han, a national of your country and was a seasoned contractor with oil servicing companies here in Lagos, Nigeria. He lost his life on the 12th of March, 2003 in an air/plane-crash here in Nigeria.

Before his sudden and mysterious death, he deposited the sum of Ten Million US Dollars{US$10,000,000} with a Bank in a fixed account here in Lagos, Nigeria which I was quite aware of as all the legal proceedings was duly carried out by my humble self. After his death, almost Five years ago, i made several approaches to your embassy to locate any of his relatives so as to come and stand as the next of kin to my late client in order to have this huge sum transferred to his or her possession but all my effort proved abortive.

After several unsuccessful attempts in locating any of his relations and the latest ultimatum given to me by the Bank, mandating me to provide my late client's next of kin within the next two weeks OR they confiscate the money, which i wouldn't live to see it happen, hence my decision to contact you so that i can present you as the next of kin to my late client. All I demand from you is your honest co-operation so that this fund {$10 million US dollars} can be transferred into any account of your choice within the shortest time possible.

For your assistance and co-operation, I have decided to have the money shared as follows; 40% for you, 60% for me. What I introduced to you might be a smack of an unethical practice but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is capable of making things better for us and moreover, if I fail to present to the Bank my late client's next of kin in the next couple of weeks, the truth is that this money would not be taken by the government but by some greedy officials of the Bank and i would not fold my arms and watch this happen hence my decision to contact you.

I also want to use to this medium to assure you that this transaction is 100% risk free and my position as the counsel to the late depositor of the fund, it has been legally planned to avoid any hitch or breach of law both during and after the transfer might have been effected to you. And also, every information that will back you up as the next of kin to my late client shall be given to you as soon as i have your consent. The following information will be required from you in your reply;

1.} your full name__________________________,
2.} Your residential/contact address__________________________,
3.} Your phone/fax number__________________________,
4.} Your Occupation and__________________________;
5.} Your Age__________________________.

For purpose of security and the confidentiality of this transaction you can reply this mail to this my private e-mail address; "barr_smithjohn002@hotmail.com"

I look forward to receive your positive response soonest.

Best Regards,
Barrister Smith John(Esq)

Wilhelm said...

Are you saying that I can't trust Barrister Smith John (Esq.) from Lagos, Nigeria whom sent me an e-mail offering to split 10 000 000 USD 60:40 with me? Dang!

Naah... BS John sounds like a stand-up kinda' guy......by which I mean that he's probably used to standing in front of brick walls