Friday, August 16, 2002

George Mindling Column 8-16-2002 - Financial Scams

Watch out for Financial Scams

Twice this week my firm has been solicited by e-mail to help two different widows, both of whom lost their husbands to "bad guys" who apparently still run the respective countries, to help "save" or "retrieve" fortunes that they can't touch without our help.

The e-mails were labeled "Business Investment" and "Immediate Response Required." "I am Mrs. Maria Vusi, wife of late Anthony Vusi who was murdered by the Zimbabwean veterans and irate black people," starts one letter. "I am MRS MARIAM ABACHA, wife of the late Nigeria Head of State, General Sanni Abacha who died on the 8th of June, 1998 while still on active duty," begins the other.  One has a fortune worth $18 million, the other has one worth $25 million, that oddly enough, only we can help save!

I sent both c-mails to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs to see what the official stand is on these solicitations. According to Susan Counts at DOACS, financial scams are thought to be between the third and fifth largest industries in Nigeria!

There are many legitimate businesses in Nigeria, but we are talking about scams here. According to Counts, “The scam operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, e-mail, or letter concerning Nigeria containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal. Common variations on the scam include: 'over invoiced' or 'double invoiced' oil or other supply and service contracts where your Bad Guys want to get the overage out of Nigeria; crude oil and other commodity that needs to be 'chemically cleaned' before it can be used and he needs the cost of the chemicals.

"Or the victim will just be stiffed on a legitimate goods or services contract. The variations are very creative and virtually endless. At some point. the victim is asked to pay up front an advance fee of some sort. be it an 'advance fee, 'transfer tax, performance bond: or to extend credit, grant COD privileges, whatever. “

If the victim pays the fee, there arc many 'complications' which require still more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both. If the victim extends credit etc. he may also pay such fees ('nerfund,' etc.), and then he is stiffed with no effective recourse."
This information is from the 419 Coalition. a group based in Harrisonburg. Va. Its home page is at

According to the group. there are five rules for dealing with any Nigerian company:
1. Never pay anything up front for any reason.
2. Never extend credit for any reason.
3. Never do anything until the check clears.
4. Never expect any help from the Nigerian government.
5. Never rely on your government to bail you out.

Oddly, both letters offered us 20 percent of the "held" funds, with 5 percent to be used for expenses if we "helped" free the "frozen' funds. Some industry!

George Mindling © 2002

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