Someone has contacted you from Nigeria or another African country and offers you millions of dollars. All you have to do is help transfer money, diamonds, or other riches to your bank account for safekeeping. It sounds like a dream come true, but it's really a nightmare.
- Be aware that these scams are well-known. They used to be called “Nigerian letters” because they came by mail, but now these messages also come by phone, fax, or email.
- These promises are never true. The purpose of the scam is to get money out of your bank account, not to put money into it.
- Once you are on the hook, they’ll never let you go. You will be asked for a never-ending series of payments for “transfer fees,” “legal expenses,” and other bogus costs.
- Don’t believe photographs of the “treasure.” One common ploy is to tape money around a block of wood or bundles of paper to make it look like a large amount of currency. Sometimes the crooks even sprinkle harmless powder on the money and tell victims that it’s a toxic chemical used to protect it. Then they offer to sell a special substance to remove the powder!
- Be wary of offers to send you an “advance” on your “commission.” Some con artists use this ploy to build trust and to get money from your bank. They send you a check for part of your “commission,” instructing you to deposit it and then wire payment to them for taxes, bonding, or some other phony purpose. The bank tells you the check has cleared because the normal time has passed to be notified that checks have bounced. After you wire the money, the check that you deposited finally bounces because it turned out to be an elaborate fake. Now the crooks have your payment, and you’re left owing your bank the amount that you withdrew.
- Never provide your bank account or other financial information. This information can be used to withdraw money from your account.
- Don’t agree to travel anywhere to meet these people. They avoid coming to the United States because they fear arrest. Instead, they sometimes try to lure victims to meet them in Africa or other countries. Victims have been robbed and even murdered.
- Remember that these are hardened criminals. According to the Secret Service, these crooks use the money they make on this scam to finance other illegal activities such as drug dealing and credit card fraud.
- If they get your money, you’ll never get it back. It’s very difficult to bring these crooks to the United States for trial, and action is rarely taken against them in their own countries. However, it’s still helpful to report actual or attempted Nigerian money offer scams to law enforcement agencies.