Nigerian e-mail scam making rounds once again

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFf
twilson@starhq.com

   If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
   That maxim goes double for almost every Internet-related advertisement and e-mail scam.
   One of the most notable e-mail scam messages is finding its way to inboxes around the area once again. A promise of millions of dollars in the exchange for your bank account number.
   "Don't fall for it," said Capt. Mike Peters with the Elizabethton Police Department criminal investigations division. "No one has fallen for it that we've heard of."
   The most recent e-mailings have come from someone identifying himself as the director of the contract award committee with the federal ministry of health for the republic of Nigeria.
   The director advises the recipient that the agency has a contract valued at $27.5 million that has somehow been suspended in an account in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
   The e-mail then makes the individual an offer he or she finds too good -- way too good -- to refuse. The sender asks to remit the $27.5 million into the recipient's bank account and offers to compensate you for this service with $3 million.
   The hook is, the recipient is required to provide the messenger with all his or her bank account information including telephone numbers and account numbers.
   "It is usually so transparent most people throw them in the trash. For the most part there usually isn't any loss," said Tom Browne, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Johnson City.
   "We receive complaints from Nigerian sources all the time. It is a nationwide problem. Most of the activity emanates from Nigeria."
   Browne said the scams came in many forms, some as letters and others as faxes, usually promising recipients various amounts of money in exchange for their bank account information. The perpetrators operate on volume, sending out thousands of such messages through e-mail or letters in hopes to snare a handful of victims.
   "We rarely run across a victim who has gone through anything," he said.
   He said the bureau did investigate and arrest subjects involved in such scams who were found in the United States. He also said extradition of white-collar criminals from Nigeria to the United States was "next to impossible."
   He added that the U.S. Secret Service is more actively looking into the scams, classified as bank fraud or wire fraud offenses.
   "If anyone gets them, we advise to ignore it, throw it in the trash or call the FBI," said Peters.