Three emails, just days apart, arrived in the inbox this week, declaring a professed love of Christianity and devote wish to share an extravagant amount of money with the poor.
In all three instances, the women had cancer, two had worked for the embassy in the Ivory Coast, two were willing to have their attorney change their wills, three had millionaire husbands who died – car crash, plane crash, and brief illness, and all want to fund orphanages or church related activities. All were feigning illness, and all were reaching out in a deathbed effort. Their names: Mrs. Amal Anees, Mrs. Patricia Wagner, Mrs. Rosemary Parker.
Cancer is serious. Almost everyone has been touched by it. To use it to phish information from unwary good and kind people is unforgivable. To use religion is just as grievous. This scam pulls at the generosity of good people, but entices others with greed.
This is another twist on one of the nation’s longest-running scams. Known as the Nigerian letter scams, these “fund transfer” frauds reach intended victims by fax, letter or e-mail. The sender, who claims to be a government official or member of a royal family, requests help in transferring millions of dollars of excess money out of Nigeria and promises to pay the person for his or her help. The message is always of an “urgent, private” nature.
Those willing to help are asked to give their banking account number (for “safekeeping” the funds) and Social Security number, birth date, or other personal information. Or they are asked to send money to the letter-sender for taxes and various fees. Victims never see their money again, and the con artist obtains the ability to empty their bank account and/or steal their identity.
Email recipients can take steps to protect themselves:
- If you receive a letter, email, or fax from Nigeria, or any other country, asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply! Immediately delete or throw away any such correspondence.
- If you have already responded to such a plea, or if you know someone who is corresponding in this scheme, contact authorities as soon as possible (phone: 202.406.5572 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Ignore people representing themselves as foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- Be leery when strangers are eager to place unexpected, large amounts of money at your disposal, in exchange for your bank account number or other personal or financial information.
- Cashier checks and money orders can be counterfeit. When a stranger sends a check or money offer to buy a product or service from you, consult with your bank about the time it will take to verify the check, and wait for the funds to clear.