“Scam-Detective: How much money did you earn from scamming people?
John: In the year before I was arrested I earned about $75,000 (£46,000) for my family. I bought my family a better house and drove a BMW. I had mobile phones and laptops and everything that comes with having lots of money.”
“Scam-Detective: Wash Wash scams? What does that involve?
John: We would tell the victim that we had a trunk full of money, millions of dollars. One victim met some of my associates in a hotel in Amsterdam, where he was shown a box full of black paper. He was told that the money had been dyed black to get through customs, and that it could be cleaned with a special chemical that was very expensive. My associates showed him how this worked with a couple of $100 bills from the top of the box, which they rinsed with some liquid to remove the black dye. Of course the rest of the bills were only black paper, but the victim saw real money. He handed over $27,000 (about £17,000) to buy the chemicals and was told to return to the hotel later that day to pick up the cash. Of course when he came back, there was nobody there. He couldn’t report it to anybody because if it had been real it would have been illegal, so he would have gotten himself into trouble.”
“Scam-Detective: So you basically didn’t care where the money came from, or what they had to do to get it, as long as they got it?
John: Some of the blame has to go to the victims. They wanted the money too because they were greedy. Lots of times I would get emails telling me that they wanted more money than I was offering because of the money they were having to send. They could afford to lose the money.”
“Scam-Detective: And fund your BMW, mobile phones and laptops, let’s not forget about that. When the victim had run out of money and couldn’t send any more, was that the end of it? Or did you go back later for more?
John: We had something called the recovery approach. A few months after the original scam, we would approach the victim again, this time pretending to be from the FBI, or the Nigerian Authorities. The email would tell the victim that we had caught a scammer and had found all of the details of the original scam, and that the money could be recovered. Of course there would be fees involved as well. Victims would often pay up again to try and get their money back.”
“Scam Detective: What about relationships with other scammers? Was there co-operation between different gangs?
John: There are lots of gangs playing the game. We would sell lists of active email addresses who had not sent money to us to other gangs who would try different scams with them. There was a lot of competition too. One time my email was hacked by another gang who stole all of my contacts. I lost a lot of money that day.”
“Scam-Detective: Can you give our readers any tips about how they can avoid getting scammed?
John: The biggest thing I can say is to delete the emails and never to reply. Once you reply your email address will be put on a list and sold to other gangs, even if you never reply again. It just tells them that the address is real and that somebody reads email going to that address. If they can’t get you with 419 (advance fee fraud) they will try phishing or viruses to get your banking details and take your money that way.
I used lots of different stories to get people to send money. I used the dying widow story a lot, saying that I was an old lady dying of cancer and had fallen out with my children. I wanted to give my money to charity and didn’t trust them to carry out my wishes, so was looking for someone outside of the country to make sure it went to the right place. So whatever the story is, make sure you delete the email, because you can be sure it is a scam.
Another thing is not to put email addresses anywhere on the internet. If it is on a guestbook or message board, or on a website anywhere then the foot soldiers will find it and put it on their list.”
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