The Nigerian scams have been around for years. These are the e-mail messages you may receive from Nigeria or some other third-world country, claiming that someone seeks your assistance in moving a large amount of money out of the country. The claim is that you will be given a large percentage of the money, typically several million dollars, for helping move the money. There are several variations of this theme, one of which includes a genealogy twist.
Terry Coder and his wife Pamela of West Virginia bought their first computer and found it helped him to study his family history. Coder looked at genealogical Web sites. He talked in chat rooms. And he started instant messages to a new friend, Desmond Abuku, using his AOL account.
Then, one day in early March, Abuku told Coder he had discovered that one of Coder's distant relatives had died, leaving behind millions of dollars. That's when the trouble began.
You can probably guess the rest. Abuku sent Coder documents about the estate, supposedly from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "He told me he needed filing fees to file papers with the court," Coder said. "I said I didn't have any money." Then Abuku came up with a creative means to "lend" the money to Coder so that the fees could be paid. And then there were more fees… and more…
There is a long and detailed description of the scam on the Charleston Gazette's web site at http://www.wvgazette.com/section/ConsumerInsight/2005051217. Staff writer Paul J. Nyden describes the ever-expanding net by which the scammer was able to trap genealogists. I would suggest that the article should be required reading for all computer-owning genealogists.
Of course, many of us have heard these stories before. The fact that you are reading this newsletter right now shows that you have been using a computer for a while and have learned how to navigate around the web and probably have already learned about the various scams and con artists that prey on genealogists. Publishing an alert in this newsletter probably isn't going to reach the computer newcomers who most need this warning. The question arises, "How do we warn the newcomers who have not yet heard about these scams?"
I might suggest that anyone you know at a local genealogy society or that you meet at the library, the courthouse, or any archive where genealogists congregate is a potential victim of such an operation. If you discover anyone, especially a genealogist, who mentions a new computer in the household, you might warn them about these scams. Even better, ask them to read the article on the Charleston Gazette's web site at http://www.wvgazette.com/section/ConsumerInsight/2005051217.
You could be doing that person a very big favor.