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July 24, 2003

Dillon Warns Of New Twist In Infamous 'Nigerian Scam'

Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon today issued a warning about yet another twist in the infamous "Nigerian letter scam" - this one involving car sales transacted via the Internet.

"As we have explained in previous alerts," Dillon said, "the original scam involved letters from individuals, usually purporting to be affiliated with the Nigerian government, who claimed to be in possession of millions of dollars that they needed to deposit into a U.S. bank account. They promised victims a high percentage of the money for cashing out the funds, and asked victims to provide their personal bank account numbers. In fact, of course, there was no money; the scammers were simply seeking access to bank account numbers so they could clear out those accounts. Recently, we alerted the public to a new variation, in which the scammers were luring victims over the Internet, through unsolicited e-mails.

"In the latest version, the con artist responds to Internet car sale offers, agreeing to make a purchase but sending a foreign check for thousands of dollars above the agreed-upon price. Explaining that the excess amount is to cover any transportation fees related to the delivery of the car, the scammer requests that the seller send back a check for the excess amount. Ultimately - after the seller's return check has been cleared for payment - the original foreign check is declared to be counterfeit, or written on a non-existent account.

"The victim is thus out the thousands of dollars he or she sent back to the 'buyer.' But that is not all. The victim has also provided these con artists with personal identification information from his or her bank account, endangering the security of that account."

Besides contacting local law enforcement authorities, anyone who believes they may be a target of this scam should notify the West African Task Force of the U.S. Secret Service by email at 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov, as well as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center www.ifccfbi.gov and the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov.

"Above all," Dillon stressed, "individuals who choose to sell merchandise over the Internet should be forewarned of the dangers. They should be careful not to divulge personal financial information over the Internet, and they should never refund any money until they are certain that the check they have received is valid."

Office of the District Attorney
Denis Dillon
262 Old Country Road
District Attorney
Mineola, NY 11501
Telephone (516) 571-2994