If you have to bank in Spain, you should avoid doing business with Florencia Ortega. She’s the administrative manager at the Vault of a Financial Security Institute in Barcelona.
She’s trying to use you to launder money from Spain by setting up a false benefactor: You.
Patricia Stevens, of Boise, saw right through the scam. In spite of being offered a share of $26.7 million dollars if she would set up a bank account, pretend to be the lone heir of a “citizen of your country that shares the same last name with you, who died along with his entire family on 11th March 2007 in a ghastly car accident in Porto Portugal.”
“It sounds to good to be true, so I thought I’d pass it on to you,” she says. BBB received two identical letters on the same day from residents in the Snake River Region.
Those willing to help are asked to provide a banking account number (for “safekeeping” the funds) and Social Security number, birth date, or other personal information. Are demanded to be honest and told to keep it “very confidential.” 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.
People laugh at the insanity of falling for such a fraud, but the FBI reports annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes. Victims have actually been lured to Nigeria, where they were imprisoned.
Variations of this con are attracting a new batch of victims. Be leery of the following variations:
- Beneficiary of a will: An e-mail claims that you are the named beneficiary in a will, to inherit an estate worth a million or more. Your personal financial information is needed to “prove” that you are the beneficiary and to speed the transfer of your inheritance.
- Bogus cashier checks: People who have advertised an item for sale on the Internet are contacted by an interested buyer from Africa or another country, who sends a counterfeit cashier check or international money order for an amount larger than the asking price. His explanation varies about why the amount is that large. Nonetheless, the seller is asked to deposit the check into their banking account, and wire the difference to the purchaser. Those victims that do not wait for the bank to verify the legitimacy of the check, and wire the money as requested, can end up losing thousands of dollars. Be aware that it can take a week or more for banks to receive word that a check is fake.
- Donation solicitations: Some e-mails request “donations” to fight an evil government or dictatorship in Africa. The sender requests the recipient’s bank account to withdraw the donation directly from the bank and get immediate access to the “much-needed” contribution.
- Fake web sites: The scam artist sets up a fake online bank and “deposits” the millions of dollars referenced in his pitch. When the victim starts expressing doubt about the existence or size of the fund transfer that is to take place, he is directed to the site, which shows a multi-million dollar deposit.
Remember these points:
- If the “opportunity” appears too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not reply to emails asking for personal banking information.
- Be wary of people representing themselves as foreign government officials.
- Be cautious when dealing with people outside of your own country.
- Beware when asked to help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
- Guard your account information carefully.
- Be cautious when more fees are requested to further the transaction.