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ID Theft
Consumers Now Target of Nigerian Letter Scams
The Better Business Bureaus has been warning businesses for several years not to be tempted by fraudulent letters from Nigeria that offer get-rich-quick schemes. The so-called "Nigeria Letter scam" has been around since the early 1990s, scamming businesses nationwide out of millions of dollars. Although small businesses, churches and non-profit organizations have been the primary target, consumers are reporting that these letters are now showing up in their mailboxes at home.

The BBB advises consumers who receive these letters not to provide any personal or banking information to these con artists. The best thing to do is not to respond at all.

How will you be able to tell if the letter you receive is part of the Nigeria letter scam? The letters are usually marked "urgent" or "confidential" from Nigeria via mail or fax. The sender claims to be an official of a company or government ministry, or has an official-sounding name such as doctor, chief, lawyer or prince. Some letters are even written on government stationery.

Although each letter may contain a slightly different appeal, the "official" asks for assistance in transferring millions of dollars of excess money out of Nigeria. The person proposes depositing the money in a trustworthy U.S. bank account, in exchange for which the account holder will receive a percentage of the transferred funds.

To participate you must provide the bank account number and the name, address, phone and fax numbers of your bank. Using the provided information, the con artist can rob the victim's bank account. Or they may try to get money directly by requesting exorbitant payments to cover transfer fees, travel expenses, taxes or necessary bribes before the transaction can occur. Sometimes the con artist attempts to lure the target to travel to Nigeria! In any case, the con artist disappears with the victim's money and the victim never receives any of the promised funds.

If you receive a letter or email from a Nigerian scammer, don't respond! U.S. citizens or residents should label the letter "No Financial Loss - For Your Database" and fax it to the U.S. Secret Service Task Force handling Nigerian scam cases at 202.406.6930; forward Nigerian Scam emails to the Task Force's email address at 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov.

Last Reviewed
1/8/2001

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