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Dodge City woman hopes her experience will help others be wary
By Eric Swanson
Dodge City Daily Globe
Nov. 17, 2005
The story was implausible but intriguing: A man who may have been the brother of a Dodge City man died two years ago in a car crash in Nigeria, leaving behind $10 million in a Nigerian bank.
Someone claiming to be Nigerian attorney Ramsey Madu, who supposedly represented the dead man, e-mailed the Dodge City man on Oct. 11. The attorney said he was trying to reach the dead man's relatives so they could claim the $10 million, and he offered to split the money three ways 60 percent for Madu, 30 percent for the man's family and 10 percent for the U.S. government for taxes.
The Dodge City man's wife read the e-mail, and Madu's story piqued her interest. Her husband did not have a brother in Nigeria, and the dead man's last name did not match her husband's, but the spellings were close enough that she thought there might be a connection.
"So I thought, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWell, why not? We'll just go along with this,'" the woman, who requested anonymity, said in an interview last week.
So on Oct. 17, the woman wired $1,641 to a Nigerian man named Akubueze Ekene Brown to cover administrative and processing fees related to the transaction.
Although the woman did not realize it at the time, she was the victim of a scam. But she became suspicious when the con artist demanded more money, and she refused to pay.
The woman said she had never heard of such scams before her experience, but she will be more wary in the future.
"I kept looking at this, thinking, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWell, this is our chance,'" she said, shaking her head. "Sucker, sucker, sucker."
She added that she hoped other people especially senior citizens would learn from her experience.
"There's a lot of elderly people getting on the Internet now, and I think they ought to be made to know," she said.
Old scheme, new methods
The woman's e-mail message was apparently part of a so-called "Nigerian 419" scheme, named for the section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud.
Nigerian 419 schemes have been around for a long time, but the advent of widespread Internet and e-mail use has given them a new lease on life, according to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. The IFCC is a joint operation of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
The IFCC says it has received more than 600 complaints about Nigerian 419 scams in the last five years. Most of the complaints were from people who wanted to save other people from becoming victims of the scam.
Only two of the intended victims who lodged complaints with the IFCC lost money one lost $30,000, and the other lost $1,000.
According to the FBI, the details of Nigerian 419 schemes vary, but they usually start with the same premise: Someone claiming to be a Nigerian official, a businessperson or the surviving spouse of a former government official offers to transfer millions of dollars into your bank account in exchange for a small fee. If you agree to help, the con artist promises you a substantial cut of the proceeds.
If you respond to the offer, the con artist may send you official-looking documents to support his story. You're then asked to provide a blank letterhead and your bank account numbers, plus some money to cover "transaction costs."
But the scam doesn't stop there, according to the FBI.
"Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria," the bureau said in the "Common Fraud Schemes" section of its Web site. "In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss."
The FBI said Nigerian 419 schemes cause their victims to lose millions of dollars annually.
Although the Dodge City woman didn't realize it at the time, the e-mail message that she received from Ramsey Madu bore all the hallmarks of a Nigerian 419 scheme a tantalizing story, a stranger's request for assistance in transferring millions of dollars to a U.S. bank account, and the promise of a major windfall.
The woman followed Madu's directions and sent $1,1641 to Nigeria on Oct. 17. Madu then sent her a set of documents related to the transaction, including a newspaper article about the crash that killed his client and his family, a copy of the man's death certificate and an affidavit naming the Dodge City woman's husband as the dead man's next of kin.
The woman said she now believes the documents were fakes. But that wasn't the end of the story.
On Oct. 18, a man named Alen Dorothe the purported president of the Nigerian bank where the $10 million was being held asked the woman and her husband to wire another $6,125 to Akubueze Ekene Brown to cover administrative costs. Dorothe promised the couple that once Brown received the money, their share of the $10 million would be transferred to their bank account within the next 72 hours.
The woman said that was when she and her husband realized that they were the victims of a fraud.
"He (Ramsey) wanted this amount of money first, and then the next thing I know, he's wanting more money, " she said. "I just e-mailed Ramsey back, and I told him, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWe don't have it.'"
She refused to send Dorothe the money, which triggered a series of e-mail messages in which Madu asked her to reconsider. But this time, she did not comply with his demands.
On Tuesday, the woman received another e-mail from Dorothe. This time, Dorothe said that three men had stormed his office and demanded that he transfer the $10 million into a Singapore bank account.
The woman wrote back to Dorothe, saying she and her husband were no longer involved in the scheme and he could do whatever he wanted with the money.
A lesson learned
The woman said she will not try to recover the $1,641 she lost in the scam, because she is convinced that it is gone forever.
But she said she has learned one lesson from her experience, and she wants to share it with other people: Don't trust strangers who offer you a major windfall especially when they start demanding money.
"When they start asking for money, run the other way," she said. "Even if it is legal, I'm not going to trust it anymore."