Nigerian E-Mail Scams Flourish despite Global Crackdown; Secret Service Arrests New York Couple in $200,000 Case
Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Nigerian e-mail scams continue to defraud investors of savings despite efforts by the United States and foreign governments to crack down on the schemes.
Secret Service agents in White Plains, N.Y., arrested two persons this week in one of the scams, which are rated among the "most annoying" e-mails of 2002 by a company that monitors such things.
A Wisconsin businessman gave $200,000 to a New York couple claiming ties to the Nigerian government in response to their e-mail plea for help to pay fees for transferring $50 million from Nigerian banks. Instead of a percentage of the $50 million the couple promised, they gave him a trunk filled with worthless black paper.
"It just shows how easily people fall for these things," said Rafael Figueroa, a Secret Service agent in White Plains, N.Y.
The New York husband and wife, identified as Chuks and Svitlana Nwogu, face up to 15 years in prison.
The Secret Service, which has a task force dedicated to Nigerian e-mail scams, estimates that Americans have lost hundreds of millions of dollars on them. As soon as one group of suspects is arrested, others spring up elsewhere, often on other continents, law-enforcement officials said.
The senders typically appeal to the recipients' heartstrings. Invariably, they want money.
"Appeal for assistance to claim the sum of U.S. $45,000,000.00 and lodge in safe bank account, on behalf of my family," one such e-mail says.
Usually, the e-mails ask for financial assistance with bank transfer fees in exchange for a share of the account.
Another e-mail, from a sender calling himself Ahmed, reads: "I have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which was discovered very late. ... The last of my money is the huge cash deposit that I have with a [bank]. I will want you to help me collect this deposit and [dispatch] it to charity organizations."
Ahmed adds, "Please respond before I die."
Some of the e-mails have been traced to Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Afghanistan and other countries. They have come to be called "Nigerian" because many of the scams originate there.
SurfControl PLC, a company that sells software to filter out junk e-mail, or spam, rated Nigerian e-mail as one of the most annoying of such nuisances last year. Among others: e-mails touting pornography, mortgage-refinancing discounts, Internet gambling and cheap prescription drugs.
"It has most assuredly secured a place in the Internet hall of shame as one of the more common Internet hoaxes," America Online spokesman Nicholas Graham said of the Nigerian scams. …