A 67-year old white American, Michael Neu, has been arrested by police in Slidell, in the state of Louisiana, the United States for helping scam people out of money by using one of the oldest scams online dubbed the “Nigerian Prince” scam.
Investigators say Mr.l Neu was involved in hundreds of financial transactions that were the result of spam emails like the one below.
The emails claim to be sent by an important foreign figure or dignitary reaching out to you for help. Despite the unfortunate arrogation of the scam to Nigeria (hence, the “Nigerian Prince” scam), the emails actually come from many parts of the world and scammers are based in many countries, including Nigeria. The “dignitary” offers the recipient a great sum of money in exchange for a little financial help. (They are commonly called “Nigerian Prince” email scams because that was the type of dignitary frequently used by scammers during the scam’s rise to prominence in in the mid-2000’s.)
Similar emails have been sent to inboxes across the United States for nearly two decades. While most people immediately recognize the scam email for what for it is, some of the less tech-savvy amongst Americans have lost millions of dollars to the scams over the years.
Neu is facing 269 counts of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering. And yes, police say Neu did send some of that money to Nigeria in this case. Meanwhile, the investigation continues, but police say finding scammers outside the country will be difficult.
“Nigerian Prince” Scam Example Email
I have been requested by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to contact you for assistance in resolving a matter. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company has recently concluded a large number of contracts for oil exploration in the sub-Sahara region. The contracts have immediately produced moneys equaling US$40,000,000. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company is desirous of oil exploration in other parts of the world, however, because of certain regulations of the Nigerian Government, it is unable to move these funds to another region.
You assistance is requested as a non-Nigerian citizen to assist the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, and also the Central Bank of Nigeria, in moving these funds out of Nigeria. If the funds can be transferred to your name, in your United States account, then you can forward the funds as directed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company. In exchange for your accommodating services, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company would agree to allow you to retain 10%, or US$4 million of this amount.
However, to be a legitimate transferee of these moneys according to Nigerian law, you must presently be a depositor of at least US$100,000 in a Nigerian bank which is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
If it will be possible for you to assist us, we would be most grateful. We suggest that you meet with us in person in Lagos, and that during your visit I introduce you to the representatives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, as well as with certain officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Please call me at your earliest convenience at 18-467-4975. Time is of the essence in this matter; very quickly the Nigerian Government will realize that the Central Bank is maintaining this amount on deposit, and attempt to levy certain depository taxes on it.”