Internet fraud costs woman $400,000
AN AMERICAN woman has revealed how she was swindled out of $400,000 (€314,000) by Nigerian internet fraudsters in what is believed to be one of the biggest cases of its kind ever recorded.
Janella Spears, a nurse from Oregon, said that she began sending cash to scammers in 2005 after receiving an e-mail promising her several million dollars from a long-lost relative.
In what is known as a 419 scam – named after a section of the Nigerian criminal code – the fraudsters randomly contacted Ms Spears over the internet, claiming they could offer her a substantial cut of a $20.5 million fortune in return for the cash injection, which would help to move it out of the country.
“I kept thinking it’s only a couple of hundred dollars – I can get it back,” she told a local news organisation. Over two years the fraudsters strung her along and encouraged her to send up to $14,000 at a time. She became obsessed and sent the fraudsters more than $400,000, which she raised by remortgaging her home and spending her husband’s retirement savings. Despite advice from bank officials, police and the FBI that it was a ruse, Ms Spears said she continued to send cash in the hope of a pay-off.
Even fake e-mails claiming to be from the president of Nigeria and US president George W. Bush could not dissuade her. “I said: ‘How come you’re using this non-government address?’ ‘Oh, because our computer has a worm’,” the fraudsters responded.
The internet fraudsters send out millions of messages in the hope that some reach gullible victims. A University of California study showed that it took an average of 12.5 million e-mails for each response. Large operations sending billions of messages could make up to £2 million (€2.3 million) a year.