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D.A. Warns of Nigerian E-Mail Scam

From a Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County district attorney’s office is warning about a Nigerian-based scam that promises millions of dollars to recipients of electronic solicitations.

Scammers have bombarded county workers in recent months with scores of such e-mail messages, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg W. Brose. Some messages purport to be from government officials or former oil company executives in Nigeria or other countries, including South Africa and Sierra Leone.

The con artists usually say they have millions of dollars in a bank account overseas, but need the recipient’s help in accessing the money, Brose said. Respondents are then enticed into divulging their checking account number or into depositing money in a bank account to complete the deal, he said.

Another scam is aimed at consumers selling expensive items in online auctions. In this scam, the con artist bids on an item, then informs the seller that a business associate in the United States will send a cashier’s check for the purchase. The seller is also told that the merchandise must be shipped overseas.

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The victim is then told that once the cashier’s check has cleared, they should wire funds to an overseas bank account to cover transportation costs, Brose said.

Soon after the check clears, the victim is usually notified by his or her bank that the check was counterfeit, he said.

Such schemes are becoming more prevalent because they cost little or nothing to conduct over the Internet, Brose said.

So far, there have been no reported victims in Ventura County. The main thing “is not to become the victim in the first place by being an educated and smart consumer,” said Dist. Atty. Greg Totten.

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