Earlier this week, I spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Lake San Marcos about how to stay safe from scams and cons. In that talk, we went over some of the different types of scams and, at one point, I talked briefly about what’s now called the Nigerian 419 scam (the name is derived from the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers this type of fraud). Well wouldn’t you know it, two days later I received one of those emails myself. Here’s a link to the article I wrote in my Crime and Courts column onExaminer.com or just read on for the details. Also, here’s a link to a PDF version of the letter.
On Dec. 5, I received an email from Ned Bank of South Africa offering me a share of $66,700,000,000.
The message itself contained no text other than that of an attached PDF. The PDF was a letter that described an account held by the late Col. Muhamar Gaddafi and discussed Gaddafi’s capture and the fact that the only remaining heir was now deceased. It also stated that the family knew nothing of the account. I chuckled when I read the reason that the money was being released at this time: a five-year CD that had matured. The email had the usual note of urgency and required immediate action on my part.
Everyone knows that con artists play the percentages and hope that one unsuspecting person will be gullible or greedy enough to participate. It’s hard to believe that, in this age of constant bombardment about the dangers of these types of scams, someone wouldn’t understand what would happen if they responded, but it does happen—at least enough to keep the scammers in business. In this case, the email sender will be waiting for a response from some unsuspecting soul who responds to the email address provided. They will receive instructions and be asked to provide their personal information, including banking information, so that the initial transfer can be completed. If the con plays out as these usually do, that bank account will soon be empty and the personal information will be used to create new credit accounts.
The mistakes in the con:
Fortunately, this email contains some blatant mistakes that might make it less effective.
- The amount cited in the PDF is “sixty-six million seven hundred United States Dollars ($66,700,000,000).” Those amounts simply don’t match because the numeric amount is in billions, not millions.
- The email was sent to a mailing list of unknown size, but was marked as “Private and Confidential.”
- There are numerous typographical and grammatical errors.
- The letter looks like a bad scan of a paper document.
The sad truth is that people fall for these scams all the time and find their life savings are gone and that they have a new mountain of debt. One way to avoid identity theft is to learn more about it on the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov. If you think you may have become the victim of identity theft, visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov to file a complaint.