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Oh great, I'm a millionaire, again.

February 23, 2008 - Art Smith
I got an e-mail the other day from someone claiming to be a soldier in Iraq. The e-mail described how he had money from captured Iraqi insurgents and wanted my help in transferring a huge sum of money to the United States.

I get e-mails like this several times a day. Most claim to be the widowed wife of a murdered African leader, or the brother in hiding of a disposed king somewhere. They all have the same thing in common. They all have huge sums of money and they all want me to help them transfer it to the U.S.

If I help them, the letters claims, I will be free to use part of the money however I please.

Wow, it sounds too good to be true. It is.

The internet is flooded with spam and scams. Some studies put spam, the sending of unwanted e-mail, at more than 90 percent. That 90 percent contain a lot of scams for get-rich schemes.  Spammers get e-mail addresses by "scraping" them off of web pages. My e-mail address is on hundreds of web pages. (Just look to the right, you'll see it.) Anyway, this means I get a lot of spam.

We filter a lot of the spam out on our corporate mail server. A spam eater called a Barracuda (yep, like the big-tooth fish -- I don't make this stuff up)  removes about 95 percent of the spam before it gets to me. Filters on my e-mail account remove around 80 percent of the rest. This leaves me about 80 e-mails per day. Of those, around ten will be offers to make millions.

They are all variations of  a Nigerian scam. Some offer treasures, diamonds, gold, or cash, and they all try to get you to help move the goods from there to here. They will all end up costing you money.

Does anyone really fall for this?

In 2006, Americans lost nearly $ 200 million  to scams like this. More money was likely lost by people too ashamed to report it. The average victim gets cheated out of around $5,000.

The scam has roots back to the 1920's, when it was mailed to people in an attempt to free a "prisoner" wrongly jailed.

Just remember, if you get an e-mail from someone making you an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 
 

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