Oregon woman loses $400,000 to Nigerian scam

Makes me proud to call Oregon home.  I can’t believe people fall for it, but what’s startling is that the scam was custom tailored to her. I would say it’s time to switch to Gmail or some program with spam filters built it.

SWEET HOME, Ore. – Janella Spears doesn’t think she’s a sucker or an easy mark.

Besides her work as a registered nurse, Spears – no relation to the well-known pop star – also teaches CPR and is a reverend who has married many couples. She also communicates with lightning-fast sign language with her hearing-impaired husband.

So how did this otherwise lucid, intelligent woman end up sending nearly half a million dollars to a bunch of con artists running what has to be one of the best-known Internet scams in the world?

Spears fell victim to the “Nigerian scam,” which is familiar to almost anyone who has ever had an e-mail account.

The e-mail pitch is familiar to most people by now: a long-lost relative or desperate government official in a war-torn country needs to shuffle some funds around, say $10 million or $20 million, and if you could just help them out for a bit, you get to keep 10 (or 20 or 30) percent for your trouble.

All you need to do is send X-amount of dollars to pay some fees and all that cash will suddenly land in your checking account, putting you on Easy Street. By the way, please send the funds though an untraceable wire service.

By this time, not many people will fall for such an outrageous pitch, and the scam is very well-known. But it persists, and for a reason: every now and then, it works.

For Spears, it started, as it almost always does, with an e-mail. It promised $20 million and in this case, the money was supposedly left behind by her grandfather (J.B. Spears), with whom the family had lost contact over the years.

“So that’s what got me to believe it,” she said. […]

She wiped out her husband’s retirement account, mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car. Both were already paid for.

For more than two years, Spears sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everyone she knew, including law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials, told her to stop, that it was all a scam. She persisted.

Spears said she kept sending money because the scammers kept telling her that the next payment would be the last one, that the big money was inbound. Spears said she became obsessed with getting paid.

It’s going to take her and her husband two years to dig themselves out of the debt from this scam. A shame really. Also, I love that the writer of this story had to clarify that she is not related to Britney Spears and that this somehow got past the copydesk.  Well played sir, well played.

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  • anon November 18, 2008, 12:37 pm

    love your site but had to stop redin g ti cause on of your pop up ads WONT STOP FUCKING BEEPING. i think its the 'congratulations you won a free prize' one.