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Nigerian Letter Scams Move to the Internet

Better Business Bureau logo

Better Business Bureau logo

In 1999 the Better Business Bureau warned about Nigerian spams sent by email. These letter scams had previously operated for perhaps 100 years by mail sent on paper. 

"For Immediate Release

"June 10, 1999 - The wording is very familiar to Better Business Bureaus nationwide …only the method of contact, and country of origin have changed:

"* 'We respectfully invite your kind attention to the transfer of U.S. $25 million into your personal/company offshore account.'

"* 'you will receive 20% of the total sum, 10% for miscellaneous expenses and the remaining 70% is for me and my colleagues.'

"* 'It is our sincere conviction that you will handle this transaction with absolute confidentiality, maturity and utmost sense of purpose.'

"* 'such transaction to commence within 10 business days.'

"These statements are typical of the lures contained in what's commonly referred to as 'Nigerian Letter Scams.' The BBB warns that these scams have recently gone high-tech and are emanating from several countries throughout Africa, as well as New Zealand, Brazil and Great Britain. Members of the BBB nationwide report that such pitches now arrive unannounced and uninvited in their fax and email boxes.

"The letters are usually signed by someone who 'represents' the relevant country's Ministry of Commerce or Finance or the Department of Petroleum Resources. The writer claims that huge funds are left over from a deliberately inflated construction contract or purchase order and he's seeking to ship the funds offshore.

" 'Now that the Nigerian letter scam has gone high-tech and is being perpetrated via fax machines and e-mails, it's more critical than ever that we educate business owners and managers to this scam,' said James L. Bast, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., the umbrella organization for the nation's BBBs. 'If you receive an offer from a stranger who promises a large payoff in return for assisting in transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria or any other country, ignore it.' Some letters request copies of business letterhead; others request the name and address of the company and details about its business activities. 'Any response to this fraudulent offer will bring the con artist one step closer to being able to plunder your bank account,' Bast said" ( accessed 05-08-2009).

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