Beloved — anyone who has had an email account in the past decade or so has almost certainly received several emails with that salutation. The missive goes on to congratulate recipients on their good fortune, then seeking some cash in order to shake loose a pile of cash needed for some vaguely specified purpose. Recipients who pay up are assured of getting their investment back many times over. And we have some oceanfront property in Arizona available cheap, in case you’re interested.
This letter, often purported to come from a Nigerian prince, is a scam. One prince turned out to be a 67-year old man living in Slidell, Louisiana, who was arrested last Thursday by the Slidell police following an 18-month investigation.
Details of the investigation remain scarce according to a report in The Washington Post, but the police have said the investigation is ongoing and involves non-U.S. citizens living outside the country. Michael Neu, who is now in police custody, is charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out personal information over the phone, through email, cash checks for other individuals, or wire large amounts of money to someone you don’t know. 99.9 percent of the time, it’s a scam.
In 2011 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned Americans:
So-called “Nigerian”” email scams are characterized by convincing sob stories, unfailingly polite language, and promises of a big payoff. …
Inevitably, emergencies come up, requiring more of your money and delaying the “transfer” of funds to your account. In the end, there aren’t any profits for you, and your money is gone along with the thief who stole it.
The FBI also warns:
Once the victim stops sending money, the perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks that they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances. While such an invitation impresses most law-abiding citizens as a laughable hoax, millions of dollars in losses are caused by these schemes annually. Some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will along with losing large sums of money. The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law.
We expect another Nigerian prince soon to make an offer to buy into the next cryptocurrency initial coin offering. We suggest you keep your hand on your wallet.