I HAVE an uncle who lives in Nigeria. Called Borris. Yes, really. That’s how he spells his name. Oh, and I’m Norra. Anyway, I got an email from my uncle in Nigeria yesterday. Not only did he introduce himself and apologise for not getting in contact with me earlier in my ‘lieftime,’ he wants to send me money.
Lots. £1.5 million, to be exact. And he only needs me to send him £150 so he can prepare the parcel to send me the money! What, you’ve got an uncle in Nigeria, too? The one who needed money when stranded and mugged in London, losing all his cash and credit cards? And an aunt too?
The one who’s always sending you those nice emails? Isn’t surprising how so many of us have relatives in Nigeria – aren’t we just one big happy family? Every day, millions receive these bogus ‘419’ emails (so-called after a section of Nigeria’s legal code) promising millions. They’re such obvious scams it’s hard to imagine anyone falls for them.
Yet police estimate that US citizens alone are annually conned out of $200m plus. And the British National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates the average loss in the UK is £35,000 plus. The sender claims to be a banker, bureaucrat, ‘royal’ toadie wanting to shift vast sums your way. But no money’s to be shifted… except yours – for the greasing of palms and acquisition of imaginary legal documents.
Other versions play on your loneliness, charity or naïveté (you can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter). Fake job offer, orphan, dead bank customer, cancer patient: same weaponised scam. I’ve written before about this, but if repeated publicity saves just one more person from being conned… Finally, 5,000 people were the victims of holiday booking fraud last year, with their total losses amounting to £7m.
Travel association ABTA said victims lost an average of £1,380 each, having bought bogus airline tickets, accommodation or organised tours. It said scammers were using increasingly sophisticated methods to target people looking for ‘good deals.’ Just remember: if it sounds too good to be true…
Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘Betrayal,’ ‘The Girl in the Woods,’ ‘The Girl in the Red Dress,’ ‘No Way Back,’ ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.net) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.99;£0.99) and iBookstore. All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity.