It's a rip-off that's been around for 20 years, but people still keep falling for it. The so-called "Nigerian Bank Scam" started out in the mail, graduated to the Fax machine, and is now circulating via Email.
The U.S. Secret Service says the scam, which authorities refer to as the "419 Fraud," is still going strong. And agents say, it's not only costly, but it could be deadly.
Here's how the scam works:
You receive an email from a person claiming to be a director for a bank in Nigeria. The email promises you millions of dollars, if you'll help him transfer $30 million from a dead man's account. While it sounds far fetched, some people have actually taken the bait.
According to the Secret Service, the scam has raked in $1.5 billion worldwide. In the United States, annual losses total more than $100 million. Victims include an attorney from Michigan who lost $28,000 before realizing he was conned. A doctor from Tampa forked over close to $400,000 in the scam.
Even worse, the racket can turn deadly. The U.S. State Department says 15 Americans have been murdered or have disappeared when they traveled to Nigeria to take part in the scheme.
Authorities say a lot of Nigerians earn their living from the "419 scam." They call them "well-organized rip-off artists" who know exactly what to say and do to gain your trust.
If you're a victim, contact the U.S. Secret Service:
U.S. Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
950 H Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001