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The Nigerian Letter Scam: From Snail mail to Email

From time to time, I have seen articles regarding customer scams that involve letters from foreign countries requesting the customer provide bank account information with the promise of financial reward for the customer. How do these scams work and can we do anything to alert our customers?

Answer by Barbara Hurst

You're talking about the Nigerian letters that used to come by snail mail, then people started getting faxes, and now they're coming on email. These folks don't give up. Your name has been given to them as a trustworthy person, you see. They have this $30 (or $50 or $75) million dollars they can't get out of Nigeria except through a business arrangement with a "trustworthy person" (that would be you). All you have to do is let them use your account to transfer this sum to (by wire, they'll tell you), and then you get to keep a percentage of it (say $10 million or so) and turn the rest over to them. If you agree and send them the information, you'll soon hear they have all in readiness, except they have to bribe one last official, so they need $5,000 immediately. That should take care of the last of the problems. Until you turn over the $5,000. Then they'll need more. There is, of course, no millions at all. And you would be amazed at how many greedy people have tried to make this work. The problem has grown to the proportion that the Secret Service now has a whole unit investigating, and many people (including one southern church) have lost thousands of dollars in the scheme.

For details, go to the BankersOnline web page and type "Nigerian Fraud" on the search engine. I have written about it several times - because it keeps turning up again!


Answer by Lucy Griffin

As for alerting your customers, there is some very good, totally free material on credit scams, identity scams, and pretext calling. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's website at Go to the credit area and cruise for freebies. The FTC wrote the information pieces so you can use them. The information is designed to inform consumers so that they can take steps to prevent the problems from happening to them.


Answer by Barry Thompson

This is one of the famous scams known by some people as a 419 Fraud. The FDIC issued a special alert on this fraud September 19, 2000. Go to WWW.FDIC.Gov and locate Financial Institution Letter FIL-64-2000. This will lead you to a sample scam letter that you would like to read.Why does this work? Greedy people trying to get something for nothing. Investigators have told me that many times highly educated individuals will be taken in this scam and refuse to believe that they won't be paid.

First published on 3/19/01

First published on 03/19/2001

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