Understanding victims' behaviors so we can help them

By Daniel G. Dudzinski, Ph.D.

Fraud Basics: Fundamentals for all

Anyone with an email address probably has received a notice of winning a lottery they don't recall entering, a too-good-to-be true business opportunity or the familiar Nigerian prince who's in desperate need of your help to move millions of dollars to safety. Interestingly, no one ever seems to ask why a Nigerian would be using U.S. dollars, but in all cases, of course, the deal is too good to be true and requires a victim's advance fee and bank account details. I gained insight into these frauds over the past couple of years while I was working in West Africa for the FBI. I saw host governments either take steps to stop these crimes or completely ignore the issue.

One country decided to seize the physical snail mail sent from West Africa to the U.S. I had access to the mail to determine if U.S. citizens had committed crimes. By the time the scammers sent the physical mail, I learned that U.S. victims probably had already sent money.

The scammers are playing the odds of numbers — plain and simple. For example, suppose fraudsters send 1,000 email messages, and then 10 or 20 people respond. Of those, one or two are willing to engage in a conversation with a potential business partner, lover or political rival to the present despotic regime.

These fraudsters operate organized structures and have co-conspirators in the U.S. and other countries. Some of these criminals can write creative letters in perfect English. Others copy Internet photos and include printed copies in victims' letters. Of course, by the time it gets to that point, requests for money typically accompany the photos.


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