The RCMP estimates that Canadian businesses have lost $15 million to the Nigerian Letter Scam since the early '90s.
The Nigerian Letter Scam has many variations, but most often involves an email, letter or fax from a war-torn country in West Africa asking for help getting millions of dollars out of the country.
The email or letter will often appear to be from a Nigerian doctor or someone associated with a company or government. The con artists offer to share a large percentage of the money in exchange for help transferring the funds.
People who respond with interest are asked for money to be used as a bribe for officials, or to pay taxes or processing charges. Money that is sent is never seen again, nor is any share of the promised millions.
A new twist on the Nigerian Letter Scam cheats people who sell goods online. The "buyer" pays the seller with a counterfeit cheque, which is for more than the amount required. The "buyer" asks the seller to wire the excess back, giving the "buyer" legitimate funds in exchange for the counterfeit cheque. The deposited cheque is subsequently returned as counterfeit and charged to the seller's account.
How to recognize a scam:
- If you receive an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- You are asked for money to pay for taxes, handling fees and other charges
- You are asked to provide private financial information or personal information about yourself or family
- You are pressured to make a decision immediately
To protect yourself:
- Ask for additional information and check out callers.
- Be very cautious about providing confidential financial information such as banking or credit card details.
- If you have doubts, hang up the phone or delete the email - do not respond.
- Contact your credit union or the police if you have doubts about a financial transaction.