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'Nigerian' scam reward: costly compassion

November 22, 2010
Nigerian advance-fee fraud has been around for decades, but now it seems to have reached epidemic proportions. 
Some consumers have told the Federal Trade Commission that they receive dozens of offers a day from supposed Nigerians who politely promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money out of their country.
Apparently, many compassionate consumers continue to fall for the convincing sob stories, the unfailingly polite language, and the unequivocal promises of money.
Such advance-fee solicitations are scams. And according to the FTC, the scam artists are playing each and every consumer for a fool. Here's the play book:
Posing as Nigerian officials, businesspeople or the surviving spouses of former government honchos, con artists offer to transfer millions of dollars into your bank account in exchange for a small fee. If  you respond to the initial offer, you may receive "official looking" documents. 
Typically, you're then asked to provideblank letterhead and your bank account numbers, as well  as some money to cover transaction and transfer costs and attorney's fees. You may even be encouraged to travel to Nigeria or a border country to complete the transaction.
Sometimes, the fraudsters will produce trunks of dyed or stamped money to verify their claims. Inevitably, though, emergencies come up, requiring more of your money and delaying the "transfer" of funds to your account. In the end, there aren't any profits for you to share, and the scam artist has vanished with your money. 
If You Receive an Offer
If you're tempted to respond to an offer, the FTC suggests you stop and ask yourself two important questions: (1) Why would a perfect stranger pick you-also a perfect stranger-to share a fortune with? and (2) Why would you share your personal or business information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead, with someone you don't know?
In addition, the U.S. State Department cautions against traveling to any destination mentioned in the letters. According to department reports, people who have responded to these "advancefee" solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and, in some cases, murdered.
If you receive an offer via email from someone claiming to need your help getting money out of Nigeria or another country, forward it to the FTC at spam@uce.gov If you have lost money to one of these schemes, call your local Secret Service field office. Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
For More Information
More information about Nigerian Advance-Fee Loan scams is available from the Department of Justice (www.justiceonline.org/consum/ nigerian.html), the U.S. Secret Service (ww.secretservice.gov / alert419.shtml), and the U.S. Department of State (http://travel.state.gov/ tips_nigeria.html or www.state.gov/www/regions/africa/naffpub.pdf).
 

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