Stanford man warning others about e-mail scam

December 23, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - An e-mail scam that took one Danville woman for $30,000 last week is still making its rounds in the community, and the pleas for money are becoming more personal.

Patrick Rice, of Stanford, received the first e-mail from Nigeria in November telling him an inheritance owed to him had been discovered by a man named John Williams. Williams, using poor and broken English, informed Rice that Williams' employer and his family had been killed in a car accident leaving Rice as the heir to $12.5 million.

"I have all the necessary information and legal document needed to back you up for this huge claims. All I require from you is your honest co-operation to enable us see this transaction through," wrote Williams, who claims to be a barrister.

Rice said he had disregarded the first several e-mails, but on Dec. 17 a new type of letter arrived claiming to be from the lawyer of the mysterious deceased heir.


The lawyer calls Rice by name and the e-mails arrive directly in his in-box, despite his anti-spam software and junk e-mail box.

In that letter, the man claims to be named John Umeh, solicitor, and even includes several phone numbers where Rice can contact him.

"I never did think about doing that," said Rice, but he and his wife worried someone else in the community might and would lose everything. "There's a lot of elderly people that would look at that."

Such scams often include strong sense of urgency

According to the Secret Service, such scams often include a strong sense of urgency, prompting recipients to act.

In his recent letter, Umeh claimed "the bank issued me a notice to provide the next of kin or have the account confiscated within the next ten official working days." The inheritance has somehow grown to $15 million at this point.

Both Umeh and Williams make the claim, using the same words, "I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law."

But then tragedy seems to follow Mr. John Umeh. Of the many Web sites devoted to the Nigerian scam artists, has posted one e-mail set to an American woman in April 1999. In this e-mail, Umeh claimed he was the employee of a Mr. Henry Enriquez, "who died along with his entire family in November 1996 in a ghastly plane crash in Nigeria," wrote Umeh.

To assure that Umeh will get his cut of the discovered inheritance, he asks recipients to wire thousands of dollars into an overseas account to assure the heirs intentions are clear. In another e-mail, Williams asked for 10 percent of the discovery. In both cases, people will wire money to cover an advanced fee or discovery fee to Umeh's account in anticipation of a multi-million dollar inheritance, and in the end get nothing back.

Scam called "Advance Fee Fraud"

This type of scam, called an "Advance Fee Fraud" has been well documented on many Internet sites, including those of the FBI and Secret Service. The government warns that the scammers are often getting names, phone numbers and even cell phone numbers from the classified ads in local papers, as Rice believes was done in his case.

But the scam is growing with little to no cooperation from the Nigerian government.

"The Nigerian Government blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of foreigners," said the Secret Service Web site,

Rice has already discovered that there is little officials can do to stop the scam in the states. He saved all of his e-mails from this scam, but has been told there is nothing local law enforcement can do.

"They said they just didn't have the money to investigate it," said Rice.

So Rice turned to The Advocate hoping he could warn people receiving such e-mails.

"It's a pretty big scam," and the elderly have the most to lose, said Rice. "Maybe it will save somebody's life savings. If it saves one person, it's worth it to me."

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