If you thought that people couldn't possibly still be falling for the old Nigerian 'Let me deposit money in your bank account' email trick, think again. Despite all the publicity and warnings, a Canadian man recently handed over CAN$150,000 on the hopes of earning millions.
The 419 scam, which originated in the early 1980s in Nigeria, is a an advance-fee trick in which the target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of attaining a larger gain in the future.
The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud. In the early-to-mid 1990s, scammers targeted companies interested in dishonest deals in the declining Nigerian oil sector. The scam messages orginally arrived as letters and then faxes.
Then came email. This not only lowered the cost of sending scam letters, but also spurred imitations from other parts of the world. But the original and best exponents of the art are Nigerians - Insa Nolte, a lecturer of University of Birmingham's African Studies Department, claims that 419 scams via email "helped to transform a local form of fraud into one of Nigeria's most important export industries."
However, the advance-fee fraud is nothing new, as its a variation of an older scam known as the Spanish Prisoner scam in which the trickster would tell the victim that a rich prisoner had promised to share treasure with the victim if he or she would send money to bribe the prison guards.
But poor John Rempel of Leamington, Ontario, wholeheartedly believed the email he received in July 2007 from someone claiming to be a "lawyer with a client named David Rempel who died in a 2005 bomb attack in London" wanting to "leave behind $12.8 million to a Rempel."
According to the Windsor Star, the fraudsters told him he first needed $2,500 to transfer the money into his name.
But it didn't stop there, Rempel had to pay for additional documents, some costing $5,000. And then a bank account needed opening, but that too required a minimum deposit of $5,000.
The 22-year-old obliged. He even went to Mexico to borrow the necessary funds from his uncle to travel to meet the con artists in London, England. Upon arrival, he gave them $10,000 of his uncle's cash in exchange for some liquid “formula,” that makes money “legal tender.”
But his luck ran dry when he dropped the secret formula back in his hotel room. The scamsters told him that he could purchase more potion for an additional $120,000 and some plane tickets to Nigeria, because that's the only place in the world to get this magic liquid. After they milked all of Rempel's cash - he finally told them he was "cleaned out." His family notified the police.
The whole ordeal cost Rempel $150,000, ($55,000 of which was his uncle's and $60,000 from his parents) - not to mention his truck driver job, friends and financial credit.
“I really thought in my heart this was true,” concluded Rempel.
by Leila Makki