Have you ever gotten an email that went something like this
FROM: BARRISTER MOHAMMED AMINU
AS I WRITE TO YOU IN GOOD FAITH. PLEASE EXCUSE MY INTRUSION INTO YOUR PRIVATE
I AM BARRISTER MOHAMMED AMINU; I REPRESENT MOHAMMED ABACHA, SON OF THE
LATE GEN. SANI ABACHA, WHO WAS THE FORMER MILITARY HEAD OF STATE IN NIGERIA.HE
DIED IN 1998. SINCE HIS DEATH, THE FAMILY HAS BEEN LOSING A LOT OF MONEY DUE TO
VINDICTIVE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO ARE BENT ON DEALING WITH THE FAMILY. CONSEQUENTLY, THE FAMILY HAS ASKED ME TO SEEK FOR A FOREIGN PARTNER WHO
CAN WORK WITH US AS TO MOVE OUT THE TOTAL SUM OF US$75,000,000.00 (SEVENTY FIVE
MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS), PRESENTLY IN THEIR POSSESSION…
This is a scam.
They usually type in all caps hoping it will grab your attention. It is known as a
419 fraud, the Nigerian money laundering scam and various other names.
They all follow a similar pattern. Someone from far away asks for your help
getting money out of their war-torn or corruptly governed country and into an
American bank. In exchange for your help, they will give you a large portion of
it making you very wealthy. All they really want is your bank account number.
Once they have it, they take your money and are gone. Once, I even received a
version of this con that took on the form of a threat. The scammer claimed that
a hit man had been hired by an enemy of mine, and I would be killed unless I
bought him off. The broken English and misspellings revealed that this was a 419, which is named after the section of Nigerian
law that bans these scams. Sadly, they do not have enough police resources to
really do anything about it. To be safe, I did report it to my local police, who
confirmed that the trail to the scammer went cold in Africa.
Another common scam is called phishing. An e-mail claiming to be from your bank,
AOL, Ebay, Paypal or just about any company that does business online will claim
that you need to follow a link in the e-mail to their website and confirm your
information. If you do follow the link, it will take you to a fake website that
may look like your bank's, Paypal's or who ever they claim to be, but it is not
the real thing. They will request your user ID, password, account number, social security number or just about any other personal information.
This is a common method of identity theft. The e-mail may seem legitimate at
first, but it is not. It may take on a threatening tone, claiming that your account will be
suspended unless you act now. They may claim that a server crash has caused them
to lose your information, that someone has been caught trying to impersonate
you, that a new law; usually part of homeland security; requires that
information about account holders be verified from time to time. No matter what they claim,
it is a scam.
Your bank will never send you an e-mail asking for your user ID, password,
account number or any such personal information. Neither will AOL, Ebay,
Paypal or any legitimate business that uses the Internet. Setting up fake websites to impersonate businesses and
steal people’s information is called pharming. Pharming and phishing
often go hand-in-hand.
a new twist, some phishing emails ask potential victims to call a phone
number. They claim that there is a problem with the potential victim's
account that needs to be cleared up at once. The number in the email
will go to the con artists, not any bank. They often set up answering
systems that sound just like the one at a bank hoping to fool people.
If you receive a suspicious e-mail; anyone who has an e-mail address eventually
will, there are several things that you can do. One is to just delete it. Another is
to forward it to email@example.com so the Federal Trade Commission can have a look at
it. If the scammers claim to be Ebay, you can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For
Paypal, use email@example.com. If they claim to represent a bank, contact the
bank. Once again, do not use the link in the e-mail. It is a fraud. Open a
browser, and type in the address yourself. You can probably find it on your bank statement or other
©2012 Matthew G. Brown
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