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Nigerian Scams: How to make sure they don't happen to you

Unfortunately, I have seen the effects of Nigerian scams up close as a very close friend of mine was caught up in this awful scam a few years ago.

  Whether it originates from Nigeria or not, this scam is a common
one that has swept the globe and affected lots of innocent people.

There are many variations of Nigerian scams (named this way because it is believed that these scams originated in Nigeria) but the most common one is similar to the story I will share with you, a true story, that unfortunately happened to my friend several years ago and is very common in the Direct Sales World.

Hopefully by reading her story, you will know exactly how to recognize and thus avoid Nigerian scams in the future!

In my friend's situation, she started a Direct Sales business to help pay off some of her student loans.

Her business was doing well and so she didn't think too much of it when someone made a rather large purchase on her website.

For payment, the customer said that she would send my friend a cashier's check. 

The amount on the check was more than the purchase amount of the items that she bought, so the customer asked my friend to go ahead and deposit the cashier's check, keep the amount for the purchase of the items and then wire the remainder to the customer via Western Union.

It seemed like an innocent request... Keep the money needed for the product order, simply send the change. 

Still my friend was suspicious so the scammer (to try to earn her trust) told her to go ahead and wait until the  cashier's check cleared to send her the "change" via Western Union.

Surely it must be legit, right? 

No!  This is a classic example of the Nigerian scams that have been sweeping the globe.

After all, if the customer is telling my friend to wait until the check cleared then the whole thing must be above board......  (not the case, keep reading)

My friend said that it looked like the cashier's check had cleared, so she went ahead and wire transferred $8000 to her "customer" only to find out a couple of weeks later that the cashier's check had bounced and not gone through.  

Ok and the $8000 she had wire transferred? 

That was HER money that she sent to that thief... and it was every single last penny she had in the world.

Local law enforcement couldn't help, her bank could not help and Western Union could not help. 

She was just out of luck. 

Needless to say she was devastated.

How can this happen?

....and how is it that banks can declare that a cashier's check has cleared only to rescind that declaration weeks later?

This is due to a little known law in the U.S. that states that when customers deposit a check in an U.S. banking institution, the bank must make those funds available to their customer within
5 days of the check being deposited even if the check has not yet cleared. 

  So technically, the bank is extending what you could call a "loan" to their customer, until which time the check actually clears,

(which can be anywhere from 2 weeks to a month!).

So in this situation, the check appears to have cleared and by the time the bank determines that it was a counterfeit check, it is too late. 

You may have already spent the money or wired the remainder to the scammer.

So not only are you out the money you wired to the scammer, the bank will inform you that YOU are responsible to them for any monies that was spent off of what you believed to have been a legitimate check.

For those of you who follow the news, you may be aware of these sorts of Nigerian scams but it might surprise you how to know many people are victims of this sort of thing. 

In 2006, Americans were the victims of over $200 million in internet fraud, a good portion of it a result of these Nigerian scams!

In fact, a close friend of mine who is a police officer says that they have people report these types of crimes "all the time"  and unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done.

The perpetrators use untraceable email addresses , use cyber cafes that are sometimes in on the scam and they ask to have funds wired to them via untraceable methods such as wire transfers using Western Union or Money Gram.

So what should you do to protect yourself from these  Nigerian scams?

1.  Money in, not out.

If you own your own direct sales business, use this as your mantra.

You really should NEVER have to pay your customers. 

Money should always come in from your customers, money should not go out to them.

So if you have someone that you don't know contact you via the internet or email wanting to place a large order.. great.. but be cautious. 

Have them pay you  and unless they are paying
you in cash do not give them change... make sure they pay you for the exact amount of the merchandise they have purchased.

Please don't ever allow someone to overpay you via any type of check with the intention of having you give them change. 

Simply put, if someone offers that to you as an option, mark my words,
that check will bounce and you will be left out in the cold with your hard earned money in someone else's pocket.

Don't let that happen to you.

2.  Immediately delete any emails that tell you that you have won the lottery or that ask you for help in locating an individual or cashing any checks for a commission

Surely you have seen these emails...

They usually mention that you have the won the lottery in a foreign country, or they offer you a way to make some "easy" money by:

1. Simply going to a check cashing location to cash a so-called legitimate check of which you can keep a commission


2. They  may ask you for help in recovering a legitimate inheritance from a deceased family member of which they will give you a cut of the inheritance when it comes through.

These are all variations of these same nigerian scams, perpetrated by most of the same criminals that originated the original Nigerian scams.

I'm sure that I don't need to give you details on how these criminals make this work for you to understand that they are just looking for ways to scam you out of your money and believe me, if you respond to them, they will find a way to get it.

Speaking of emails,

This isn't directly related to the Nigerian scam but I see this happen all the time:

Beware of your email address being hijacked!

We've all received one of these..... an email from a close friend of ours (and sent to everyone on their contact list)  with a subject matter that is out of character.

We see these odd emails and we know right away that our friend's email address has been hijacked  (and hopefully you are able to tell your friend right away, if they are not already aware of this!)

How does this happen?

By clicking on a suspicious link on an email . 

That's it.

The email may seem very normal (for example, it may seem like it is coming from paypal or from your bank)  and at times, they are so authentic looking that even experienced internet surfers are fooled ( in fact, I have been fooled by this exact scenario before!)

An example of this might be an email purporting to be from your bank that states that your bank account has been hacked and to "click here" to rectify the situation. 

Then you click on the link and it doesn't take you to your promised destination but the hacker now has access to your email inbox.... and everything in it. 

Passwords, sensitive information , private emails from friends, you name it.

What to do if this happens to you


Follow these five steps to gain control of the situation:

1. View your recent sign in activity 

(This is available for Yahoo users although I am not sure if other email providers have this information available). 

If you have a Yahoo account, simply click on the tool symbol to the right of your name (top right). 

Then go to account info

Then click on "View your recent sign-in activity". 

  It should only show log in activity from the city you reside in. 

If you see log in activity from Brazil( that's just an example!), you're in

If you do see that someone has signed in from a location unfamiliar to you then:

2.  Immediately change your password.

3.  Open your profile and security settings and change all of your secret question/answers

4. Also change your recovery address. 

This would be the email address that your email provider would send password recovery information to. 

The reason it is important to change this is because the bad guys could change this setting and then have the password recovery email sent to them and then they could change your password themselves and gain access to your email address again . 

By the time you figure out that you can no longer log into your email address, it may be too late.

5.  You may want to consider closing out this account and opening up a new one

(Make sure you transfer all of your emails to your new email inbox). 

Then email all of your contacts with your new email address.

I hope this helps you avoid falling victim to these infamous Nigerian scams.  For other Direct Sales Tips and Tricks, click here!

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