Letter Re: How to Thwart Nigerian Scammers: Demand Proof of Life

Monday, Dec 17, 2012

Captain Rawles,
Regarding the multiple letters you are receiving on the Nigerian scams, you may want to warn your readers that participation can lead to incarceration. The reader who told his story of USAA bank taking the amount of the fake checks from his account was lucky. Frequently, these scams prey on people who get greedy and suffer the consequences. In many cases, people receive a check (sometimes out of the blue, with no prior email contact) in the mail with a request to deposit it and send back 10% or 25%, etc to an international address (often in Canada). Since the check is normally for a substantial amount ($15,000 to $30,000 is common) greed overcomes common sense and the recipient deposits the check in his account. Sometimes these scams involve overpayment for a purchase or a sad story about trying to circumvent foreign banking laws. In any case, the recipient deposits the check, and maybe sends some money back, or just starts to spend the money himself.

When the check comes back as counterfeit, the bank deducts the amounts from his account and reports the incident to the police. In most states, this qualifies as Forgery, a felony. In my city, most banks spot the counterfeit check during the deposit attempt and calls law enforcement at that point. Although you may be saved from losing money you at least end up with a contact with local police that you wish you had avoided. If you have a criminal history and try to bluff your way through by justifying the check, you might get charged. Even if you end up with a not guilty judgment in the end, you have spent a lot of money, and had your freedom (not to mention your ability to possess firearms) endangered for no return.

In the end, it comes down to this: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!” Common Sense and Self Responsibility rule! Please keep up the good work with the blog. I read it every morning. - S.T. in Arkansas

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