In recent months, new versions of the infamous Nigerian money and banking scams have come to the attention of the national news media. An unfortunate incident in a New York City condo last week provides an example of the latest variation: the Black Money Scam.
This is how the scam plays out.
First, a scammer will contact individuals via email with their story of their plight—which is always dire—in their country and ask them to provide an advance for fees and taxes to import a case of money into the United States in exchange for a large percentage of the money. They tell the intended victims that the money has been dyed black so that it can be imported and that they can purchase a cleaning solution for the money once the money is in the country. Many targets are quite naturally suspicious of this story, but some are curious enough to pay the advance and ask to see the money. The scammer then shows the target the case full of currency-sized paper (which, in reality, is usually black construction paper) and will use sleight of hand with a “cleaning solution” to produce a clean bill.
However, the scammer doesn’t bring enough solution to clean more than one bill and counts on victims to be gullible enough—and some are—to assume that the rest of the case is full of cash that has been dyed black. The scammer tells his target that he cannot pay the target his share of the money because taxes have not been paid, but once the black money is washed it will be used to pay the taxes. Next the scammer will inform the target that he needs more money to pay for the cleaning solution. In some cases the scammer will even set up a website for victims to purchase the cleaning solution, providing yet another opportunity to take advantage of victims who believe that the existence of a website adds credibility to the scammer’s story. The scammer will continue to give the victim the runaround, asking for more money for fees, taxes, and other charges. This will continue until the victim realizes that he or she is being scammed or refuses to give any more money.
These crimes often go unreported to law enforcement or are reported too late for anything to be done about them. By the time the authorities find out, the scammer is long gone with the victim’s money. If you receive an email from someone offering a percentage of money if you help them export it, it’s likely to be a scam. Don’t respond and report the email address to your Internet Service Provider and law enforcement. If the email address is caught early, it’s possible that action can be taken. Be aware of these scams and don’t fall victim to these heartless people. And remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.