Widespread use of the Internet has given con artists another way to scam people. Cons such as Internet auction fraud or phishing sites that try to steal credit card and bank account numbers are common, but there are more insidious Internet cons in which the con artists try to earn the personal trust of their victims.
Perhaps the most infamous of all Internet cons is the Nigerian money transfer, or advance fee fraud. Virtually everyone with an e-mail address has received a come-on for this con at some point. Someone from Nigeria (or another African country), perhaps a relative of a recently deposed ruler, informs you that he needs your assistance in a very important matter. It seems that this deposed ruler has millions of dollars stashed away in a secure bank account. However, he can't access any of this money without paying certain fees, bribes and fines to Nigerian authorities. That's where the victim comes in -- to provide money to pay these costs. The victim is assured that once the costs are paid, the government will release the money and a he will receive a huge return on his investment. Often the e-mail promises a large percentage of the total sum.
Anyone who has actually sent money to these con artists will soon find that other fees crop up. The money may get held up at the border, so more money is needed to bribe the customs officials. The con artists often request personal information such as Social Security numbers and copies of passports. This goes on and on, playing on one of the most nefarious aspects of long-term cons -- once the victim has spent a significant amount of money, he believes if he just spends a little more then he'll get it all back. With so much money already invested, most people find it very difficult to walk away. Some people have been lured to the country of origin, kidnapped and held for ransom. There is even a documented murder related to such a case. The country of Nigeria is notorious for a combination of poverty and lax law enforcement, especially with regards to financial scams. The section of Nigerian law relating to fraud is 419, so these scams are sometimes referred to as 419 scams. But the scams can originate from anywhere, as our example above shows.
Read on to learn about more cons, how to avoid being conned and what to do if it happens to you.