Wednesday, May 22
7:38 AM | Al Williams
About twice a week I get an offer to help some government or bank official in Nigeria (or a nearby country) launder some huge sum of money. Of course, this is the infamous 419 Scam. The idea that someone would pick me at random to launder a few million dollars is pretty laughable. Apparently, some people really think that a government official would ask a U.S. working stiff to help launder a small fortune. The U.S. Secret Service estimates the fraud nets millions each year. They also say they field 100 telephone calls a day from victims and potential victims. They've even stationed agents in Nigeria to try to stem the problem at the source. The U.S. State Department reports that 15 victims from various countries were actually murdered in 1996. When I first read this information, I was surprised. I just delete these messages as obvious scams and it never occurred to me that anyone would take something like this seriously.
ZDNet reports that South African police with assistance from Scotland Yard arrested four Nigerians, a Cameroonian, and a South African for sending out these letters, faxes, and e-mails. Evidently, they were also trafficking drugs. It seems like these guys would be easy to catch using decoy victims. I'd guess if the Secret Service set up a hotmail account, they'd only have to wait a few weeks before they were approached.