A stranger sends you an e-mail or letter about being in difficulties in his or her home country, and asks you to send money so that he or she can access personal funds. You are told you will then receive your share of a larger amount, interest income, or a large reward, which never materializes.
The story and presentation that go along with the scam may be so convincing that it's hard for victims to believe they have been the target of a crime.
The stories have one common feature: in order to receive the promised reward, you must first pay charges such as security payments, taxes, bank and legal fees, transportation fees or charges for personal services. Only then can you receive your share of the larger amount, the interest income or your large reward. The subject of the fabricated story may be a "request for assistance", diamond or weapons deal, "inheritance" or "transfer of funds".
This scam is a direct descendant of a phenomenon that started about twenty years ago, known as "Nigerian letters", in which unsuspecting people are cheated of their money on various sorts of pretexts. The letters are referred to as Nigerian because they originally came from that country, but nowadays they may claim to be from a person or country anywhere in the world. There are numerous different versions in circulation under different sender names, and they may even arrive in the regular mail.
Scamming methods have been developed and refined over the years, and implementation makes use of a world-wide criminal network.
- There is no need to reply to the letters. The e-mails can be deleted just like any other junk mail.
- Money, bank account numbers or passport information should not be sent to strangers.
If you believe you have been the victim of a crime, you can contact the local police.