February 19, 2003

FEBRUARY 7, 2003


Attorney General Steven Rowe today renewed warnings about a pervasive email, fax, and mail scam that claims to emanate from Nigeria or other African nations. The basic scheme began in the early 1980's and, according to federal government reports, has resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars by United States residents.

The classic Nigerian scam comes in the form of unsolicited correspondence from a self-proclaimed Nigerian government official offering to launder $10 million to $60 million through a legitimate American bank account. The correspondence asks the recipient to provide personal banking information to the sender in exchange for a percentage of the money. Any recipient who responds is then asked to send monetary installments to the sender and is promised reimbursement when the large sum is transferred from Nigeria. In actuality, the millions do not exist, and the recipient loses the installment payments and compromises the security of banking information.

A Somerville man today reported to the Attorney General a new twist on the Nigerian scam. The man listed a motorcycle for sale on an Internet site. A person claiming to be from Nigeria called him and offered $9,000 for the motorcycle. He accepted the offer. The buyer claimed that a colleague in the US owed him $15,500 and asked the seller to take a cashier's check from the colleague for that amount and wire the difference, $6,500, to the buyer in Nigeria. He said he would later arrange for the shipment of the motorcycle. The seller received the cashier's check for $15,500, deposited it, and wired the $6,500 to the buyer. He later learned that the cashier's check was counterfeit and that he was out $6,500. Members of the Maine media may contact Chuck Dow at the Attorney General's Office for contact information for the seller.

Attorney General Rowe warned, "Generally, State and federal officials lack viable options for recovering money lost in this scam or prosecuting the scammers. Do not respond to these offers. They lead down a road of deception and loss."