Thursday, October 02, 2008

Watch out for the ‘Nigerian email scam’

For many years now, Internet users across the world have received scam emails. The most famous ‘series’ of emails, which we’ve all seen and continue to get almost every week, originate from Nigeria, with a story on how you can make a lot of money fast by helping a wealthy foreigner “move millions of dollars from his homeland”.

Usually there are stories of this person being a prince or a minister in a country that has witnessed a change in political power, and he no longer has access to his millions. And, incidentally, from among all the computer users in the world, he has chosen you to help!

This scam is also known as the Advance Fee Fraud or 419 Fraud. Police and legal authorities across the world are quite aware of it, having dealt with many gullible people who have fallen for it. Yet, so far, the police have been unable to actually catch the Nigerian fraudsters, but instead put the poor victims in prison as accesories to fraud. The logic behind this is that the victim chose to obtain money ‘illegally’ by dealing with a crime organization, even if he/she thought there would be no harm done.

I’ve heard of a couple of Jordanians who have fallen for it, but I don’t have details, so it was very interesting to recently read about an Eastern European lady, a resident of Abu Dhabi, who has also fallen for this scam.

The lady runs a dental clinic. Her unfortunate story told in the Gulf News explains that she got an email from a Nigerian man who claimed he had inherited $5 million and needed to store it in her account until details were sorted out. In return, she would be rewarded for her gesture.

After corresponding through emails, the woman agreed to meet with two Nigerian men in April who carried a briefcase filled with $50,000 worth of counterfeit notes. Before the money was handed over, she was asked to pay a 6,000 fee. After paying the amount and taking the briefcase, she headed to a currency exchange the next day. The notes all had the same serial number, were immediately found to be counterfeit and the woman was arrested.

The Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi sentenced her to one year in prison, after which she will be deported. The emails she exchanged with the Nigerians and phone numbers could not be traced to anyone.

So, beware! If you get an email that promises you money, remember the Nigerian scam gangs, and how this lady’s greed made her lose everything!


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