Nigerian Scam - Consequences

Consequences

Estimates of the total losses due to the scam vary widely since many people may be too embarrassed to admit that they were gullible enough to be scammed to report the crime. A United States government report in 2006 indicated that Americans lost $198.4 million to Internet fraud in 2006, averaging a loss of $5,100 per incident. That same year, a report in the United Kingdom claimed that these scams cost the United Kingdom economy £150 million per year, with the average victim losing £31,000. In addition to the financial cost, many victims also suffer a severe emotional and psychological cost, such as losing their ability to trust people. One man from Cambridgeshire, UK, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire with petrol after realizing that the $1.2 million "internet lottery" that he won was actually a scam. In 2007, a Chinese student at the University of Nottingham killed herself after she discovered that she had fallen for a similar lottery scam.

Other victims lose wealth and friends, become estranged from family members, deceive partners, get divorced, or commit other criminal offenses in the process of either fulfilling their "obligations" to the scammers or obtaining more money. In 2008, an Oregon woman, Janella Spears, lost $400,000 to a Nigerian advance-fee fraud scam, after an email told her she had inherited money from her long-lost grandfather. Her curiosity was piqued because she actually had a grandfather whom her family had lost touch with, and whose initials matched those given in the email. Spears sent hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of more than two years, despite her family, bank staff and law enforcement officials all urging her to stop. The elderly are also particularly susceptible to online scams such as this, as they typically come from a generation that was more trusting, and are often too proud to report the fraud. They also may be concerned that relatives might see it as a sign of declining mental capacity, and they are afraid to lose their independence.

Even though the United States Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies are well aware of the Nigerian and advanced fee fraud, victims can still be tried and convicted of crimes themselves. They may end up borrowing or stealing money to pay the advance fees, believing an early payday is imminent. Some of the crimes committed by victims include Credit-card fraud, check kiting, and embezzlement. One San Diego-based businessman, James Adler, lost over $5 million in a Nigeria-based advance fee scam. While a court did affirm that various Nigerian government officials (including a governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) were directly or indirectly involved and that Nigerian government officials could be sued in U.S. courts under the "commercial activity" exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, he was unable to get his money back due to the doctrine of unclean hands because he had knowingly entered into a contract that was illegal.

Some 419 scams involve even more serious crimes, such as kidnapping or murder. One such case, in 2008, involves Osamai Hitomi, a Japanese businessman who was lured to Johannesburg, South Africa and kidnapped on September 26, 2008. The kidnappers took him to Alberton, south of Johannesburg, and demanded a $5 million ransom from his family. Seven people were ultimately arrested. In July 2001, Joseph Raca, a former mayor of Northampton, UK, was kidnapped by scammers in Johannesburg, South Africa, who demanded a ransom of £20,000. The captors released Raca after they became nervous. One 419 scam that ended in murder occurred in February 2003, when Jiří Pasovský, a 72 year old scam victim from the Czech Republic, shot and killed 50 year old Michael Lekara Wayid, an official at the Nigerian embassy in Prague, and injured another person, after the Nigerian Consul General explained he could not return $600,000 that Pasovský had lost to a Nigerian scammer.

The international nature of the crime, combined with the fact that many victims do not want to admit that they bought into an illegal activity, has made tracking down and apprehending these criminals difficult. Furthermore, the government of Nigeria has been slow to take action, leading some investigators to believe that some Nigerian government officials are involved in some of these scams. The government's establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2004 has helped with the issue to some degree, although there are still issues with corruption.

Despite this, there has been some recent success in apprehending and prosecuting these criminals. In 2004, fifty-two suspects were arrested in Amsterdam after an extensive raid, after which, almost no 419 emails were reported being sent by local internet service providers. In November 2004, Australian authorities apprehended Nick Marinellis of Sydney, the self-proclaimed head of Australian 419ers who later boasted that he had "220 African brothers worldwide" and that he was "the Australian headquarters for those scams". In 2008, US authorities in Olympia, Washington, sentenced Edna Fiedler to two years in prison with 5 years of supervised probation for her involvement in a $1 million Nigerian check scam. She had an accomplice in Lagos, Nigeria, who shipped her up to $1.1 million worth of counterfeit checks and money orders with instructions on where to ship them.

Read more about this topic:  Nigerian Scam

Famous quotes containing the word consequences:

    Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would ... be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell.
    Hannah Arendt (1906–1975)

    If you are prepared to accept the consequences of your dreams ... then you must still regard America today with the same naive enthusiasm as the generations that discovered the New World.
    Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929)

    The middle years are ones in which children increasingly face conflicts on their own,... One of the truths to be faced by parents during this period is that they cannot do the work of living and relating for their children. They can be sounding boards and they can probe with the children the consequences of alternative actions.
    Dorothy H. Cohen (20th century)