The email comes from a Col. John Herman, and his claim is that while serving the U.S. military in Iraq, he and several came across a cache of money and need help getting it back to home.
"I served in Iraq for the last years. I am desperately in need of assistance and I have summoned up courage to contact you, presently am in Kuwait as we have been withdrawn from Iraq," the email states.
And it goes on from their to describe how they discovered millions in various currencies in "barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of Saddam Husein's old Presidential Palaces in Tikrit."
The email then grabs at the heartstrings of those who appreciate what the military has done during the past decade: "This might appear illegal but tell you what, no compensation can make up for the risks we have taken with our lives in that hell hole."
This is a variation of one of the nation's longest-running scams, with a new twist. Known as Nigerian letter scams, these "fund transfer" frauds request assistance in transferring millions of dollars of excess money out of a country and promise to pay the person for his or her help. The message is always of an "urgent, private" nature.
You may laugh at the insanity of falling for such a fraud, but the FBI reports annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes.
There is no Col. John Herman, and it is illegal to bring this money into the United States and if you do, it is money laundering, which is illegal.
Here are steps to protect you from these scams:
- If you receive a email from Nigeria, or any other country, asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply! The BBB suggests you immediately delete or throw away any such correspondence.
- If you have already responded to such a plea, or if you know someone who is corresponding in this scheme, contact the U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible (phone: 202-406-5572 or e-mail email@example.com).
- Ignore individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- Be leery when strangers are eager to place unexpected, large amounts of money at your disposal, in exchange for your bank account number or other personal or financial information.
- Cashier checks and money orders can be counterfeit. When a stranger sends a check or money offer to purchase a product or service from you, consult with your bank about the time it will take to verify the check, and wait for the funds to clear.