Getting Nigerian Email Scammed, A First-Person Story

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you responded to one of those Nigerian scam emails, offering fabulous riches for just a small amount of work? Here’s the story from an unsuspecting college student who totally fell for one. An impecunious immigrant to this country from rural China, he made the perfect target for “Dr. Mike Johnson.” The good doctor was looking to hire some employees. The job? Cashing Traveler’s Cheques and forwarding the money on to Nigeria… In other words, the job was to be a victim of check fraud. Here’s the story…

First, I received an e-mail from an unknown person; his name in the e-mail is Dr. Mike Johnson. The contents of this e-mail is an announcement of a part time job, he offered 10% of the total money after exchanging traveling cheques, and the remaining 90% was to be money transferred to him via Western Union-Money Transfer. I replied to his e-mail and gave him my personal information and address. I received American Express Traveler’s Cheques totaling $2,500 a few days after my e-mail reply. Following this, I went to (redacted) Bank to cash these Traveler’s Cheques. I then transferred 90% of this money to Nigeria. A week later, he delivered to me an additional $7,000 in Travelers Cheques. I followed the same process that I did the first time. The total amount money involved was $9,500, 10% ($950) I kept for my fees, $650 was used in transfer fees, and $7900 was transferred to Nigeria.

I understood what the part-time job entailed. I thought that it was legal work. I wanted to give it a try and so replied to the e-mail. Although I did not know whether he would send me back an e-mail the first time, he delivered $2,500 in Travelers Cheques to me. I did not know whether these cheques were real or not because they looked like money. According to Dr. Mike Johnson’s directions I had to sign and write a date by myself, and take the cheques to be cashed at the bank. At the bank I asked the bank officer about cashing the cheques. After the bank checked the cheques, the bank officer told me that the cheques could be changed. Then, the bank officer gave me money. The fact ensured my understanding that the job was legal. Then, as a result, I changed a second set of Travelers Cheques totaling $7,000.

On Thursday, I went to the bank office after a phone call regarding the fact that the Travelers Cheques that I had cashed had defaulted. After meeting with the bank officers, they made a phone call to the police station about this problem. After a while, the police came to the bank and we went to the police station to further investigate the matter. Then, at 4:30 a.m., the police went to my room with me and collected all information related to the case, and took some documents (transfer money application forms), some CDs and my PC.

I was very surprised when the bank officers told me that all of the cheques were counterfeit as I did not intend to give the bank fraudulent cheques or otherwise deceive. I did not know whether these were genuine or counterfeit cheques, I thought that the bank cashed them because they were real cheques. Had I known that these cheques were counterfeit, I wound have not cashed them and transferred the funds to a criminal. I think that this is a big problem because I became a victim of a criminal who convinced me to break the law.

Anytime someone wants to do a transaction with you where you’re supposed to deposit a check and send part of the balance somewhere else, usually by wire transfer or Western Union, invariably it’s a scam. Same thing goes for just about anything emanating out of Nigeria. You might laugh at this student’s naivete because it makes you feel like a big man and wonder how anyone could fall for it, but it happens, someone will always fall for these frauds…otherwise the con artists wouldn’t sit there at the internet cafe all day sending out emails.

Comments

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  1. Moonshadows says:

    That poor kid. It’s hard enough learning an entirely new social and legal system without getting a first hand glimpse of the dark side of both.

  2. loganmo says:

    That victim’s letter reads like it was one of those nigerian scams…

  3. SkokieGuy says:

    I wonder, since the Patriot Act gives the feds the ability to monitor just about everything, and they are certainly monitoring the flow of funds to Iraq, Iran and other countries, why not Nigeria?

    What is the money trail? Does the bank that cashed the checks take the hit? Does Western Union still collect their fees (giving them a financial incentive to not stem the flow of fraud).

  4. dorianh49 says:

    @loganmo: No, it is does not.
    Trustfully yours in faith,
    Barrister dorianh49

  5. nataku8_e30 says:

    It bothers me that with the huge number of fraudulent checks, money orders, etc… banks really have not stepped up to try to prevent this kind of fraud. They seem to place the entire burden on individuals not being susceptible to “too good to be true” offers.

  6. tripnman says:

    Last week I received just moments apart two scam e-mails – one saying that I had won the Nigerian Lottery and one from “Wells Fargo”. I sent them back to each other, asking them to put my (non-existent) winnings into my (non-existent) Wells Fargo account. Good times.

  7. jamesdenver says:

    What’s that website where they string the scammers on and on – and eventually try to get them to send a photo in with their website?

  8. Parting says:

    @SkokieGuy: Yes, Western Union always collect fees. However, on their website it’s written, than sending wires to someone you never met, is pretty much dangerous and at your own risk.

  9. Jubilance22 says:

    I know someone who fell for a Nigerian scam back in 2004. In his case, he was a college-educated American who was just greedy and learned the hard way it was a scam. His financial situation took a hard beating and he still hasn’t recovered financially.

  10. @loganmo: I was thinking the same thing. I was expecting the end of the email to ask for money to help him with his legal problems…

  11. allstarecho says:

    And you’d think Western Union and the other transfer service MoneyGram, would have a system set up to red-flag “to/from Nigeria” transactions by now because this isn’t new. Some kind of hold on the funds until verification.

    On second thought, it’s probably easier for both to just make the money from the wire fees and turn a blind eye to whomever is getting scammed.

    I’m just saying..

  12. Yeah I feel sympathy.

    Even when people who should know better get caught by these people I have to feel a little sympathy. Mostly the people who get caught by these are at a point in their life where they’re vulnerable.

    Hope he gets his stuff back, and everything works out for the guy!

  13. AdvocatesDevil says:

    Does he get stuck repaying all of the money to the bank?

  14. biikman says:

    @jamesdenver:

    the website is [www.ebolamonkeyman.com]

    Love reading the stories abotu the scammers getting scammed.

  15. basket548 says:

    @jamesdenver:

    You’re thinking of 419eater.com

  16. Even after all the publicity surrounding these scams, we still have encountered clients who did not know about them and were tempted to respond to those emails.

    A couple of years ago, they were using the SPRINT relay service that was designed for the deaf – to call and place orders via stolen credit cards.

    We knew firms that were getting about one order request per day.

    You have to wonder what type of mentality people like those have – that they do not feel any empathy

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @Advertising Guru: We may have gotten a few of these at the place I used to work. I answered phones for an online TV jewelry auction (which wasn’t amazingly legit in and of itself) and invariably once a month we’d get a pranker using the relay system.

  17. the_gank says:

    Kid should consider himself lucky he isn’t locked up forever…Nigerians scammers are sophisticated…lately, they’ve taken another approach to get people here…by intimidating via death and etc…

    Any Nigerians here who can offer better advise :-)??

  18. Wow, they went back to his room at 4:30am? It sounds like he was at the police station for about 12 hours. Ouch. But seriously, if the banker OK’s the check you inquire about, is it really your fault? If you can’t trust the judgment of the banker at your bank, LITERALLY, whom can you trust?

  19. @Jubilance22

    Okay … I can not feel too much sympathy for that guy XD

  20. Zerkaboid says:

    A year or two ago I had nothing better to do so I started going along with these scams for a while, having them send me checks and leading them on as if I was going to cash them, playing absolutely stupid like “the bank says there is a problem, send more?” I even got checks sent express FedEx, costing them a significant amount in shipping over time.

    I just hope I wasted some of their time and money.

  21. Inglix_the_Mad says:

    @allstarecho

    Precisely, Western Union still was able to collect their fee, after all. In that case, why should they care?

  22. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @SkokieGuy: I wondered that myself. If AT&T is so eager to hand over all our call logs, conversations, etc., to the feds for whatever (and they probably didn’t even ask what that ‘whatever’ is), why can’t they do something about the 419 scammers? Is it too much to ask that our federal government, which is costing trillions of dollars a year to run, actually do something simple like law enforcement?

  23. Hawk07 says:

    IIRC, Amazon doesn’t service any IP based in the entire country of Nigeria. Even if you’re trying to make a legit order for yourself, I guess so much fraud has been committed in that country it’s not worth it to Amazon.

  24. baristabrawl says:

    I’m going to have to say that this stunk from the beginning to me. I can’t imagine that someone was ignorant as he is…

  25. the_gank says:

    I read that the scammers are of various ages back there in Nigeria…and they do overnight browsing doing all sort of illegal things… btw, I also heard some of the internet cafes charge a lot back there for browsing and these guys pay so much to send scam e-mails…life must really suck over there to be a scammer….I mean what’s the economy like overthere? is there anything other thing to do besides over crowding net cafes?

  26. anatak says:

    Can’t we just turn off the internet in Nigeria?

    Unfortunately, after watching Dateline’s To Catch and ID Thief, I realized just how many people fall for this crap. And those folks spoke English as a first language.

    What is truly sad, is that we have such a terrible system that is so easily defrauded. But yet all the blame falls on the true victim.

  27. Crabfeast says:

    It isn’t always a scam!

  28. snoop-blog says:

    Ignorance is no excuse as far as laws go. Just because you didn’t know it was illegal, doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card. Chances are, he’ll be lucky if all he has to do is pay back the checks and not do jail time. What I find to be ironic about this story is the claim that because he was from China he was not aware of these already publicized scam, well then how do you get the message out to people that are like him? Tell them about these scams when as part of the immigration process?

  29. anatak says:

    @dorianh49: everyone’s an F/n Barrister these days…

  30. xthexlanternx says:

    Anything involving Western Union = probably a scam.

  31. Excellent New Yorker article on an otherwise intelligent psychotherapist who got totally taken in by the Nigerian scam.
    [www.newyorker.com]

  32. SkokieGuy says:

    Snoop, it’s Ben’s opening commentary (that includes bonus word ‘impecunious’) that indicates the OP was a recent immigrant from China.

    The actual letter doesn’t include excuses, other than he he went to the bank manager to ask about the checks.

    And while ignorance of the law is not a valid defense against criminal charges, is the OP a criminal or a victim?

  33. AustinSauer says:

    @ jamesdenver
    that site is http://www.quatloos.com, its hilarious and sad all at the same time.
    I feel for the OP who fell for ths one, i hope he doesnt run into real legal
    trouble over it. its clear, at least to me, that he was duped and not
    knowingly committing this fraudulent act.

    here is the nigerian 419 scam page link on quatloos
    http://www.quatloos.com/scams/nigerian.htm

  34. dragon:ONE says:
  35. ideagirl says:

    @jamesdenver: You’re thinking of 419 Eater. Great stuff there.

  36. Inglix_the_Mad says:

    @Advertising Guru

    Laptops right? I had some calls on my business number about that a few years back. I played along a bit to entertain myself while I listed the laptops I sold for very inflated prices. I acted like I was going to sell it to them, and then backed out. I got a good laugh out of the whole thing.

    Once I said I could save them shipping because I was going to visit some old Navy buddies and would be happy to bring the laptops to Virginia with me. Wouldn’t be any trouble at all as we were all going to compete in the “Special Forces Games” between the Navy Seals, Marine Recon, Army Rangers, and even those Air Force Pararescue guys. All I’d need was that address and the name of the person I was giving them to. Of course I was joking, I was never a Seal, never had such a fast hangup though.

  37. ideagirl says:

    Too slow, dang it!

  38. scarlin says:

    I was bored one day when I received a message from a woman on yahoo messenger that I was sure would turn out to be this same scam. I played along as she explained how she was from “the US of America” and was living in Africa and owned an import business selling African crafts and just needed someone in the states to help her cash checks.

    I let it play out until she asked for my address so she could send me a check to cash. That’s when I gave her the address to the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    About a week later she contacted me again to ask if I had received the check and threatened that her lawyers were going to get involved if I didn’t send her the money. At that point I told her to google the address that I had given her and explained that she had sent her check to the FBI.

    [washingtondc.fbi.gov]
    FBI Washington Field Office
    601 4th St. NW
    Washington DC, 20535

    On a related note, the page for the Washington FBI has an warning at the top of the page today concerning Nigerian scams.

  39. dragonfire1481 says:

    Part of the scam is effective because until the bank catches on that the money orders are fraudulent, both scammer and the person being scammed actually DO get money out of it. I think that’s why people get suckered in.

  40. blue_duck says:

    This actually isn’t the first immigrant-related Nigerian scam I’ve seen. Of course, a lot of us get spammed and we (hopefully) know what’s going on. I work at a financial institution and two people who are from Africa got caught up in one of these whirlwinds. They thought that since the person was “from Africa” that everything was ok. Luckily, we caught it before anything bad happened.

  41. picardia says:

    @allstarecho: You nailed it.

    Also, Hoddy Toddy.

  42. blue_duck says:

    The student’s bank definately should’ve investigated his whole situation…

  43. bravo369 says:

    I don’t have much sympathy for the guy. I cannot believe people are actually this stupid. NBC did a report about this stuff and even showed people who had a ‘fiance’ from online who they never met. the ‘fiance’ would order stuff with a stolen credit card, ship it to the moron, who would then re-ship it to nigeria. i’m sorry but if you are this stupid to fall for these scams then you need to have your computer and internet priveleges taken away.

  44. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    @jamesdenver: [www.419eater.com]

    Absolutely hilarious stuff. They are true masters.

    Look for the one where the scammers are made to reenact the famous “Dead Parrot Sketch”.

  45. blue_duck says:

    @dorianh49: Ha.

  46. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @snoop-blog: According to the story, the benchmark he used for determining if it was legal or not was whether or not the bank actually gave him the money from the checks.

    You would think a bank would perform due diligence to determine if they’re counterfeit or not before handing out cash. They don’t, of course, because the law protects them completely and the onus is on the bank customer lest they be trying to commit fraud.

    All these fraud and even money laundering could easily be stopped with a few key laws thrown at institutions powerful enough to implement them. Kinda makes you wonder why Our Holy Politicians haven’t done it…

  47. wgrune says:

    @snoop-blog:

    Yeah, just because he is from China doesn’t mean he shouldn’t think it sounds a little fishy. Getting paid to do absolutely nothing other then cash checks? Come on.

  48. vladthepaler says:

    Kid’s got a point. The bank said they were good and accepted them. What he did was certainly stupid, but I’d have a hard time calling it wrong. The bank should eat the loss on this one, it was their mistake taking the bad checks.

  49. Inglix_the_Mad says:

    @scarlin

    BRILLIANT!

    I’d probably just have the idiots send them to the local field office address to Tim McVeigh, Jesse James, Oliver Cromwell, Vlad Tepes, Reynald du Châtillon, Meyer Lansky, Charles Luciano, Alphonso Capone, Josef Mengele, Josef Dzhugashvili, Máo Zédōng, Terry Nichols, et al.

    Ought to really raise some red flags. Probably the irony meter as well…

  50. Trai_Dep says:

    In this day and age, there has to be some mechanism the banks can follow that would kill these in the bud. Simply having a teller directly call the cashier company to verify the funds before depositing them seems like it’d work. I’d even think a stupidity tax of $30 would be fair.
    Simply depositing them, being reasonably certain of the upcoming financial and legal avalanche that’s heading the depositor’s way seems anti-(dumb)-consumer.
    I wonder if the guy ever got his computer back from the police?

  51. nyaz says:

    419 Scammers stike again

  52. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    Cool, I get to recycle a comment!:

    DEAR MR BILL GATES

    I WRITE YOU THIS LETTER AS MY SISTER IS VERY SICK IN NIGERIA. IF YOU COULD PRIVIDE THE LOCATION OF YOUR SECRET BANK ACOUNTS I CAN THEN DEPOSIT A CAPTURED TREASURE INTO YOU ACCOUNT AS IT HAS BEEN SEIZED BY THE GOVEMENT.

    MR BILL GATES, PLEASE REPLY SOON, THE MONEY WILL BE GIVEN TO THE GOVENMET IN 3 DAYS UNLESS I HAVE LOCATION OF SECRET OFF SHORE TAX SHELTER.

    VERY BEST,
    DANIEL BJODS

  53. SkokieGuy says:

    Trai,

    I agree, but since the deposit is American Express traveler’s checks, there is likely no way for a bank or teller to know the country of origin – unless the depositor tells the bank, exactly like to OP did.

    I wonder if he could sue the bank for lack of diligence, since he warned them of possible risk?

  54. blue_duck says:

    @vladthepaler: Only problem with that is, as soon as your signature goes on the back of the check you are depositing, that means you take full responsibility on any situation that may come with the check(s) in question.

  55. mgy says:

    Nigerians are big on eBay too. I just can’t believe people are still falling for this stuff.

  56. tundey says:

    I am a Nigerian. First, you can’t turn off the internet to Nigeria. It’s this kind of arrogance that lets people in American think some Nigerian scammer can’t possibly outsmart them.

    Second, not everything emanating from Nigeria is a scam. It’s irresponsible of Consumerist to make such an unfair and totally baseless statement. Part of the oil we use here come from Nigeria.

    Third, scams aren’t anything new, ok? It’s just that the medium has changed. You want scam? What about all the informercials on American TV? What about all the refinance schemes and the multi-level marketing scams? All of these run in America and I don’t hear Consumerist saying everything emanating from America is a scam.

    The fact is there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If something is too good to be true, it’s usually not true. It’s so easy to blame Nigeria for internet scams but when you look deep into each of these cases, the so-called victim was either a willing participant or allowed greed to get the better of his/her common sense.

  57. sventurata says:

    @Git Em SteveDave is a poor substitute for LindsayJoy: There’s a reason why checks take 2 weeks to clear (and, really, should take longer…) more than a cursory glance is needed to determine fakes. There’s also the danger of discriminating against minorities when placing a hold on deposited funds to deal with.

  58. tundey says:

    @the_gank: The best adice you can get is to apply the same scrutiny to email offers as you would to television infomercials. Besides, why would you want to get into a business arrangement with some dude you’ve never met? Some dude who’s told you he’s defrauding a bank in another country? Why?

  59. failurate says:

    Nigeria has oil and is probably costing us billions in fraud. The war in Iraq will be shut down soon.
    Just a thought…

  60. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @tundey: Stop, stop, stop, you’re not getting one red cent from me!!!

    No, but your right, we have stereotyped Nigeria and everyone knows that the most important ingredient in any scam is greed, without greed the only scams would be those that pull on your heartstrings and most of us dont have hearts (lost mine in a scam).

  61. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    @tundey: [www.419eater.com]

    Read that, especially point 5.

    Not everything that comes from Nigeria is a scam, true, but they do have a culture that glorifies scamming (hell, you even showed it a bit with your comments that the victims had it coming), and most of these scams do originate from there. If they can’t police themselves properly, I see no problem with the idea of cutting off their internet until they grow up.

  62. mariospants says:

    TIP OF THE DAY: if you don’t know the sender of the check, either tear off part of the number at the bottom of the check or mark a few of the numbers out (blacking out one number is probably enough). When the bank processes the check, it will go straight to hand-confirmation. It will take longer to process, but if it clears, it’s genuine.

  63. krom says:

    How do legitimate travelers’ checks default? Aren’t they a secure form of proxy currency? I.e. if I get $100 in American Express Travelers’ Checks, Amex backs the checks for the value, because they wouldn’t have released them if they hadn’t been paid for them, right?

    Now, counterfeit checks I can see, and in that case, the banker on the front line was wrong to tell the OP that they were legit; counterfeiting should have been detected at that point. But the story makes it sound like these were legitimate TCs but somehow the issuer refused to honor them.

  64. tundey says:

    @HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak: Does America have a culture that glorifies scamming? ‘Cos I don’t see all these infomercial-makers in jail. What about the mega-churches? Every countries has bad apples. That’s just the reality.

    How do you know most internet scams originate from Nigeria? Just because a scammer says he’s from Nigeria doesn’t mean he is. Could even be right here in the US of A.

    I am not trying to and I didn’t try to justify scamming by saying they are trying to feed their families. If anything, it’s American gangbangers and drug dealers that have made that argument their calling card.

    Regarding a culture admiring making money without working…hello? Do you live in America? Isn’t this the country of “Forex made easy”? The country of “lose weight without exercise”? The country of “extreme makeover” and other shows that give money away for nothing? Don’t talk to me about Nigeria, or any other country for that matter, having a culture that admires get-rich-quick mentality.

  65. snoop-blog says:

    OKAY EVERYONE! I was not blaming the op, and yes he was most certainly a victim. I was just saying that he will still get some sort of punishment.

    MY NEXT POINT- That since he was just from China, how do we expect to tell all the people fresh from other countries about this, unless we include this into their citizenship tests somehow. If I go to different country and am ignorant of their laws, or how things work, I’m really leaving vulnerable to these types of people.

    My point was that the consumerist can’t help these immigrants because they don’t know about it already. If we included this “scam watch” as part of the migration process, that may help. And even on a small level. If this guy was that foreign, hell a street hustler could have taken advantage of him. You would think there would be a warning about this before or during entry of a country.

  66. blue_duck says:

    @snoop-blog: Troublemaker :P

  67. MayorBee says:

    @tundey: Wow, mega-churches and late night infomercials are just like enticing someone to commit check/wire fraud. Thank you for opening my eyes to that!

    We should kill all the extreme makeover and game show participants because they’re just as bad, if not worse than these Nigerian scammers.

    Look out, Judge Judy, your number is up.

  68. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @tundey:

    EPIC FAIL.

  69. madog says:

    Is it just me, or do these scams seem so prevalent that its feasible that the Nigerian government has a bureau of Scammers.

    Or maybe Futurama has already showed us what the future will be like with scammers; that they won’t be happy until they scam earth away from us.

  70. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @bravo369: It doesn’t matter whether the victims are worthy of sympathy or not. Sending anything at all of value to Nigeria should be a federal offense. Homeland security and all that. Especially laptops or any sort of technology. There are federal regulations already in place proscribing that. Send the victims to GITMO for a long weekend, then charge them for the trip and accommodations. It would serve them right.

  71. madog says:

    Maybe I can just jump from two topics without any sort of transition. I like monkeys.

  72. ChipMcDougal says:

    How could he possibly fall for something like that…

  73. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @tundey:

    1. 99.99% of Americans do not have any legitimate business with Nigeria at all. The remainder can be licensed.

    2. There is an ongoing civil war in Nigeria that is preventing much of their oil from leaving the country and is a contributing factor to the current runup in oil prices. We do NOT want to get involved in either side of this conflict.

    3. “I am Nigerian, so I’m getting a kick out of these replies,” should be confined to FARK, where this sort of thing is apparently still funny.

  74. I remember reading this one story about a proclaimed “really internet-saavy guy” who fell for one of these scams. Of course, he took this stupidity to a whole new level and traveled to Nigeria to get his money back. Guy ended up getting shot and killed in Nigeria.

    Whenever anyone prefaces stories of people that fell for these scams as “otherwise intelligent” or “internet-saavy”, I instantly know that they’re neither if they fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam.

  75. dorastandpipe says:

    As a former banker, I can tell you guys that whomever ran the money through their account takes the hit…the bank never does.

    Now, if you came to my window, I could say “Yeah, this looks good” and send it through, it is still not MY say that it IS good. Account numbers are easy to fake and you have no idea if ANY check is good unless it is drawn on your bank and you can look directly at the system right in front of you. You only have access to the bank you work for. I don’t know about your bank, but any of the banks I worked at did not have the phone numbers for every other bank in the city, the state, the country let alone the whole world so suggesting a phone call is not going to work either. You really can’t rely on the phone number on the check, it could be a scammer on the other end. All you can do is send the check through the system and as a teller/banker you CAN and SHOULD put holds on a check over $5k, by law you have to give the customer access by the 2nd business day for the first $5k . However,it takes longer than that for checks to clear which is why these scammers keep close to the $5k amount.

    Again, if you came to my window with a check like this and wanted cash, the first thing I would check is if it is our own check, if not, then I would check your account(s) to see if you had the actual cash on hand to cover this check if it bounced. If you did not, I would not cash it and I would recommend to you to deposit the check and that while the bank would not hold an amount under $5k, I would wait at least one week before withdrawing against the check because processing takes so long. See, it becomes available to you because of law, but that does not mean it is cleared! These are two separate issues and people think “OH, it’s in my available balance so it must have cleared!” And that is how the scammers win.

  76. cpt.snerd says:

    @loganmo: Well – the beginning did say “…immigrant to this country from rural China…”

    I can’t imagine what he might have felt… :(

  77. Trai_Dep says:

    @SkokieGuy: Maybe I’m being naive, but couldn’t the receiving bank call an American Express number, even a B2B one, and verify check numbers with amounts? There has to be someone at AE that can verify their checks are good. Otherwise, I’m shorting their stock tomorrow!

  78. Trai_Dep says:

    @SkokieGuy: And, even if they only do this when a customer explains the fishy nature of the check, it’d at least be something. For the bank not to have some procedure short of blindly cashing it and hoping for the best seems anti-consumer.

  79. J.Heck says:

    I spent a summer in 2001 over in Europe on a “goodwill tour”. Before we departed, we spent a day “in class”, learning about all of the little-known scams of every country we were going to visit: England, France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, and Germany. We knew not to shake hands with random folks in Venice, lest you get your finger cut off with string, and we knew not to buy “Swiss Watches” from anyone but licensed dealers. We knew how to determine real taxis from fake taxis in London and knew to never buy a London Underground day-pass from random people for a “discount”. These things are tiny scams. How come those immigrating to the U.S.A. don’t get a run-down of the major scams like this? This sort of thing should be taught to every legal immigrant coming in to help eradicate this “I’m not from here, I didn’t know” mentality. You come here legally, stamp your passport/check VISAs at the border, here’s a paper with the major FYIs. Sign here, you got this paper, now it’s up to you and they can’t sit there and say “they didn’t know”.

  80. chenry says:

    @edicius: I never heard of that! Source??

  81. 420greg says:

    These must have been cashiers checks. If they were travelers check they would not be traceable back to an account.

    You walk in to the bank, sign, get the cash and walk out.

  82. Shadowman615 says:

    If you want to get revenge, just tell them you have placed a curse on their town that will cause everyone’s penis to shrivel and fall off. They actually fall for that stuff, apparently.

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  83. ibored says:

    @blue duck,

    I think its worth noting the consumerist post last week about comcast cashing the wrong check and takign no responsibility whatsoever.

  84. framitz says:

    I can have no sympathy for anyone so stupid as to fall for any of the many Nigerian scams going on. The dumbass deserves prosecution.

  85. blue_duck says:

    @ibored: As much as Comcast sucks, that was between Comcast and the bank~ mainly the bank~ who’s job is to make sure things go where they need to how they need to. Unfortunately, mistakes are made and people can get careless~ they just need a swift kick in the ass to bring them back in check. Of course, with Comcast, they obviously need more than that…

  86. Shadowman615 says:

    Another interesting point is that during the last few years a bumper crop of new email scams have appeared originating from China. The domain name registration scam, to name one, generally can be traced back to China.

    I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

  87. SacraBos says:

    @tundey: Yes, scams are nothing new, especially out of Nigeria. Many years ago, before many people even heard of E-mail, I actually get a real paper letter via USPS about some business deal from Nigeria. A “pre-Internet” 419 scam. Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason – because most of the time they are true.

    You don’t like it, but most of these scams from from your country, your greed, your lies, your deception, and your fellow countrymen’s willing participation. While sometimes we blame the victim, that still never absolves the criminal from their crimes. Painting Nigerias as victims of greedy Americans is ludicrous.

    How do you know most internet scams originate from Nigeria? Just because a scammer says he’s from Nigeria doesn’t mean he is. Could even be right here in the US of A.
    Good try, but again you fail. whois.arin.net is how I know.

  88. jwissick says:

    These checks are a huge problem. I bait these types of scammers for fun. In the last 2 years, I have gotten more than 1.5 MILLION dollars in fake instruments (Checks, money orders, cashiers checks, gift checks, etc. )..

    THe banks need to train the tellers better to spot these fakes.

  89. Ein2015 says:

    Not sure if it’s been posted already, but here’s the obligatory wikipedia link: [en.wikipedia.org]

  90. @chenry: One name I Googled as an example is Jean Pierre Li Shing Tat (Canadian national, murdered in South Africa), although I know he’s not the one I’m thinking of.

    I read it in a news article years ago, so I’m having trouble finding it now, but I think he was an exective in NYC. It just always rings in my head when I hear these stories because the article went out of its way to describe him as “very computer savy”.

    However, now I’m starting to doubt my recollection of details of the story, as it appears the only American murdered overseas in relation to a Nigerian scam was a woman. If anyone else can corroborate the story I’m remembering (or potentially MISremembering), it would be greatly appreciated.

  91. purplesun says:

    @Advertising Guru: A couple of years ago, they were using the SPRINT relay service that was designed for the deaf – to call and place orders via stolen credit cards.

    They still do.

  92. SkittlesMcGee says:

    My 82 year old grandma just fell for one of these. She “won” a check for $5,500 from “Publisher’s Clearinghouse.” Her instructions were to transfer $4200 to one account in Canada and $1200 to another account. She did it immediately, of course, and the transfer fees were over $100, so even if it wasn’t a scam she would have come out behind. The even sadder thing is, she’s not all there mentally and she’d probably fall for the same kind of thing again.

  93. winstonasmith says:

    if they were AMEX checks, why not just cash them at AMEX?
    cashier check? take it to one of a million check cashing / payday loan joints.

    why, oh why, run this through your own bank?

  94. Ford MF says:

    @ Victo: In his case, he was a college-educated American who was just greedy and learned the hard way it was a scam.

    That’s pretty much how all cons have worked from time immemorial: on the greed of the victims, the temptation to get something from nothing. Or from people who are so credulous and guileless that they’re basically children. But generally we don’t let those people have money.

  95. Jesse in Japan says:

    Banks really should take extra care in verifying the validity of traveler’s cheques and money orders when large amounts of money are involved, even if it isn’t at the federally mandated 10,000 dollars.

  96. alexanderpink says:

    @The Count of Monte Fisto: “His only question was how Mbote had found him, and he seemed satisfied with the explanation: that the South African Department of Home Affairs had supplied his name. When Worley attributed this improbable event to God’s will, Mbote elaborated on the story to say that Worley’s name was one of ten that he had been given, and that it had been pulled from a hat after much prayer by someone named Pastor Mark.” Yeah, he sure was an otherwise intelligent person, riiiiight…

  97. Major-General says:

    @Inglix_the_Mad: Terry Nichols is still alive, might not want to use him.

  98. Katxyz says:

    @SacraBos:
    “Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason – because most of the time they are true.
    You don’t like it, but most of these scams from from your country, your greed, your lies, your deception, and your fellow countrymen’s willing participation. While sometimes we blame the victim, that still never absolves the criminal from their crimes. Painting Nigerias as victims of greedy Americans is ludicrous.”

    Jesus. I hate to derail the thread, but I find that extremely offensive. It’s insulting to say that the other poster, wherever they are from, have something to do with these scams. “Your” greed? “Your” lies? Many of these scams do come from Nigeria, but you just did exactly what tundey was criticizing, which is stereotyping an entire country of people. Tundey had both valid and invalid points, but rather than analyzing those points, you just implied that being Nigerian directly associates him or her with these crimes, and insulting entire populations of people is acceptable.
    “Same thing goes for just about anything emanating out of Nigeria” definately could be phrased better, Ben.

  99. stridergold says:

    I am a corporate investigator for a bank and I can say that training our tellers to be on the lookout for this type of scam has become one of our biggest priorities over the past year or two. Unfortunately, by the time one of these issues comes across my desk, the damage has already been done.

    The bank definitely takes a hit on issues like this. We take a loss on the funds the customer withdrew before the check came back as counterfeit. The first thing I do is see if the customer can prove that he was an unwilling participant in the scam. We do not normally consider the customer a victim because he or she usually keeps some of the money as a part of the scam. Once I determine that the customer was scammed, we try to create a payment plan for the customer to reimburse the bank. If that fails, the customer is sent to collections. At that point, the bank might see 50% of the money and that’s only if the collection attempt is successful.

  100. outsdr says:

    @Advertising Guru:

    That’s started happening again … in July, we received about six of these calls at the newspaper for which I work. actually sat through one call, and when I explained that the classified ad they wanted to run had to be paid in advance and submitted via email or fax, the person hung up.

    I felt really bad for the poor woman who had to sit through the entire call as the relay.

    I also feel badly that possibly a legit ad has been passed up since we’ve started just hanging up on the calls; but considering no one remembers EVER getting an ad submitted this way in the past, we’re pretty sure the sudden influx have all been fake.

  101. charodon says:

    This type of scam is more than a century old. (Wikipedia “Spanish prisoner”.) So you don’t need to be from rural China to fall for it or from Nigeria to conduct it. I doubt it will die out any time soon, either.

  102. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    Well in mexico the guy with the badges are putting this warnings about some telephone fraud, they are supposed to be like the friend/family that has run in to trouble and needs some money to pay a bail or something like that.
    The other way is the supposed lottery win, they alway ask the guy to send them some prepaid cellphone air time cards, or a wire transfer.

    Never knew it could be so easy to get someone to fall for this crap.

  103. fever says:

    I never understand why people actually send the money back. Just keep it.

  104. RedOrDead says:
  105. SinisterMatt says:

    @SkokieGuy:

    There’s an old quote from Lord Palmerston (a British Prime Minister in the mid 1800s) that says “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests” that I think applies to SkokieGuy’s question quite nicely. Besides oil (but not as much as from the Middle East), there really isn’t that much coming that interests the U.S. from Nigeria. If our interests in Nigeria were threatened by these con artists and thieves that pull this kind of junk, then you can bet your boots (if you have any, that is) that the government would intervene. It’s not hurting the government here, so why should they do anything about it?

    Sorry if that is so cynical, but it is increasingly clear to me that the government (any government for that matter) won’t lift its finger unless its interests are threatened in some way.

    Cheers!

  106. SinisterMatt says:

    @the_gank:

    I read somewhere that the people who do these scams aren’t the poor in the country. It’s the rich. There is apparently (and someone correct me if I am wrong) a culture in Nigeria that if you can make money without too much work, there is something to be said about you. As a result, those who buy into that mindset can get rich very quickly with little impunity, because it is seen as desirable to many.

    Cheers!

  107. BytheSea says:

    This reads like How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Is this for real?

  108. cheeley says:

    @fever: It’s not like DR OMBOKO SMITH is really giving you any money in the first place. There is no money. The cheque is a dud. The funds will appear as available in your account, then a few weeks later, the bank will verify that the cheque is a fake, the funds will be withdrawn, and you will be investigated for fraud.

  109. consu_consu says:

    What is his GPA?