Nigerian sob story scam still making rounds

HOLT, Fla., March 6, 2017—The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a scam alert to its Facebook viewers March 3 after a local resident reported losing a large amount of money because of a scam.

The Facebook message stated a female victim was convinced to transfer “large amounts of money” “numerous times” to a man she met online.

These types of online scams are not new and have evolved out of regular postal mail scams dating back decades.

One of the most nefarious scams is the advance-fee scam, better known as the Nigerian email scam, or the 419 scam, named after the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws fraud.

“These messages are the butt of late-night jokes, but people still respond to them,” according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website. “So-called “Nigerian” email scams are characterized by convincing sob stories, unfailingly polite language and promises of a big payoff.”

And it sometimes involves a “prince,” which is why this scam is also sometimes referred to as the “Nigerian prince scam.”

While not all scams come from Nigeria, 51 percent originate from that African country, according to a 2012 Microsoft study.

The FTC information lays out how the scam works, saying people who send the messages claim to be “officials, business people or surviving spouses of former government honchos in Nigeria” (or some other country) who has money temporarily tied up.

The scammer next offers to transfer some large amount of money into the victim’s bank account if the fees or “taxes” are paid to free the money and make it available. Responders might receive “official” documents or fake currency to make the scam look more legitimate.

As the scam evolves, more money is required from the victim because of “emergencies” that arise delaying the transfer of promised funds into the account.

“These emails can really tug at your heartstrings and appeal to your sense of altruism. In the end, there aren’t any profits for you, and your money is gone along with the thief who stole it,” according to the FTC website. “The emails are from crooks trying to steal your money or your identity.”

People who suspect they have been victims of a scam, Nigeria or otherwise, should contact the local U.S. Secret Service field office in Pensacola, phone number 850-432-3234.

Stephanie Holcombe

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