In the classic version, a Nigerian prince or general or some other wealthy person needs to smuggle a fortune out of his country and needs to deposit it in your bank account temporarily, in exchange for a generous cut.
If you fall for it, the scammer either drains your bank account or convinces you to wire money to cover various fees and taxes. The money only goes one way: from you to the scammer.
Someone at Your BBB just got an email like that with a Texas twist: The money was supposedly found in the Houston airport by FBI agents based in Texas (but the fortune supposedly came from Nigeria):
I am Special Agent John Edward from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Texas Division) Intelligence Unit. We have just intercepted and confiscated two (2) trunk boxes at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston Texas, and are on the verge of moving it to our bureau head quarters.
We have scanned the said boxes, and have found it to contain a total sum of USD$4.5M and also backup document which bears your name as the receiver of the money contained in the boxes. Investigations carried out on the diplomat who accompanied the boxes into the United States has it that he was to deliver this fund to your residence as your contract/inheritance payment which was due to you from the office of finance Minster of the federal government of Nigeria.
We cross-checked all legal documentation in the boxes, and were about to release the consignment to the diplomat, when we found out that the boxes is lacking one very important documentation which as a result, the boxes have been confiscated until the required document is provided.
According to section 229 subsections 31 of the 1991 constitution on release of unclaimed consignment payment, your consignment lacks funds ownership certificate and for that reason you must contact me for direction on how to procure this certificate, so that your consignment can be legally cleared and okay for delivery to you.
You are required to contact this bureau within 72 hours or we would take it that you do not want your consignment, and would move it to the treasury Also, you must not contact any other bank for any payment, because your payment is here in care of our storage vault team and will be released to you once you follow my directives.
Yours in service,
Agent John Edward
Special Agent in Charge of the FBIsTexas Division.
Helpful hint: One thing I’ve found with scams like this is that much of the text is going to be boilerplate, used over and over. If you copy one or two lines from the message and paste it into a search engine, you’ll find lots of other people talking about the same scam. I just did that with a sentence from this email and sure enough, I found lots of discussion on forums from others who got similar email offers.
Here is some advice on how to protect yourself from the Nigerian letter scam and its variations:
- If you receive a letter from Nigeria, or any other country, asking for personal or banking information, do not reply! The BBB suggests you 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 the U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible (phone: 202.406.5572 or e-mail email@example.com).
- Ignore individuals 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 purchase 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.