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Woman loses $400k in huge '419' fraud

It started with a $100...

Article comments

A woman in the US is reported to have lost $400,000 (£270,000) after falling under the spell of one of the most extraordinary Nigerian 419 scams ever uncovered.

Janella Spears, who lives in Oregon, is said to have sent the eye-watering sums to criminals over a two-year period, mostly in amounts in the low thousands, after being contacted in a spam email by criminals offering her a cut of a $20.5 million fortune.

There was no fortune, of course, but that didn't stop Spears from reportedly spending her husband's retirement income, borrowing money against the family car and remortgaging the house, in the hope that the scam might turn out to be genuine.

The scammers even claimed at one point that President Bush and FBI Director Robert Mueller were involved. The case only came to light when Oregon Department of Justice officials noticed one payment for $144,000 being wired to Nigeria, and traced it to Spears.

After raiding her home, and studying a long chain of email correspondence, Spears was warned not to send further funds, which could constitute collaborating with criminals, however unwittingly.

"As a reverend and an American, I just wasn't prepared for that level of dishonesty," Spears told a local Oregon newspaper.

"What's impressed the police the most about this is the level of professionalism these scam artists have," she was quoted as saying.

To speculate, it is not entirely clear to what extent Spears was genuinely gullible or just 'hooked' in an addictive way to the lures used to take money from her, but the case raises interesting questions about the true nature of such crimes. Are the small but profitable number of people who continue to fall for these scams really naïve or perhaps just addicted to the thrill of risk?

Even by the terrible standards of a scam named after section 419 of the Nigerian penal code, the case sets new benchmarks in size, long-term embezzlement, and the involvement of the victim against her better judgement.

The 419 has a long history, and has remained remarkably consistent in its use of implausible lures over the years. It seems able to find victims despite widespread publicity.

Deviations from the usual 'dictator attempting to get funds out of an African country' are relatively rare. In 2006, the then Scottish Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Patricia Ferguson, was used in one reported 419 email, while only this week an Australian member of Facebook reported being contacted by a person known to her asking for the modest sum of $500. The request was bogus, the result of a clever form of ID theft.



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Papadavidson said: She should have been sent to prison - she was in effect trying to take millions of dollars out of Nigeria money that would have belonged to the people ofthat countryhad it existed Shes no better than third world military dictators who destroy their countries and run off with millions of their peoples money

vI j said: I think people are annoyed that while she preaches morality she is clearly willing to engage in a 20 million dollar financial crimeI wouldnt trust her with the church collection plate

vI j said: You are missing the fact that 144000 in a single wire transfer to a dubious PO box i am sure in Africas scam and organized crime hot spot is incredibly suspicious and justifies probable causeShe wasnt charged and they did this woman a huge favour by informing her it was a scam She could have sent more money or gone searching in Nigeria and been murdered like that Greek guy

vI j said: Addicted to risk Seriously I suppose the Scammers baited her with the promise of jumping through a ring of fire on a motorcycleAs Meckiff said it is called greed and it creates more suckers than stupiditygullibility and risk addiction snicker combinedI have a hard time finding this woman of the cloth to be sincereA She thought she was facilitating a massive international financial crimeB Her first statement wasnt prepared for this dishonesty was to try to cover her for acting crooked and her second statement the fbi said how sophisticated the scam was tailored to try to cover her for being a sucker C If the Nigerian prince had delivered the cash do you think she would have reported it on her tax returns

Meckiff2004 said: wiring money from your Paypal account to someone say in Pakistan will get your account limited and being accused of being a money laundererso yes wiring money internationlly is illegal according to PAYPAL I know they did it to me And I am in Italy where the laws are different

Meckiff2004 said: she is a nitwitand it is called GREED or is her brain on some kind of medication that she cannot understand that this was a scam I get them every day in my mailboxes I cannot understand this kind of stupidityI just cant fathom it

Joe said: Ha my father in law who was working as a United Nations Representative fell for this kind of scam He gave the scammers his bank account information name address and phone number and until he asked to borrow my car to actually meet them did we find out and stop him He hasnt learned his lesson and is no doubt continuing this trend Two years ago he fell for a scam believing that Toyota was going to give him 100 MM Say what you want about him Ill most likely agree with you

Sean said: Well be a reverend she is used to being scammed on a daily basis ie the bible and religion so this just fell right into he normal frame of mind

pete said: HAHAHAHA WHAT AN IDIOT

A Park said: All it takes is a little common sense to avoid these scams NO ONE is EVER going to give you free money on the internet If it seems too good to be true step away from it It sucks for that family to lose their life savings and then some but I have little sympathy for them

Chris Stevens said: A couple of years ago I used to buy gold coins on Ebay I had a direct email offer from a reputable dealer offering 200 gold sovereigns at 30 below the gold bullion price 50000 at todays price Very convincing I had to look hard at the email address to discover theyd substituted an m with the letters rn in the domain name I strung them along for a while after that even had them waiting at a hotel for me to hand over cash

Linda Shabazz said: People who fall in this category are desperate they eat sleep and dream moneyI know my father is one He knows what he has been doing is illegal or not legitimate but he doesnt want to hear it The whole situation on how they are scammed is pathetic And imagine what comes in the mail

Steve said: I cant believe someone who claims to be a leader of anything could fall for something so ridiculousInternet knowledge aside generally when people offer you a deal thats too good to be true IT ISBeing a reverend and trusting others isnt an excuse Lying isnt a recent invention and its much easier to find than common sense apparentlyThis lack of judgment is disturbing Did anyone ask her what the date is whos the current president and how many fingers theyre holding up

Jim C. said: How could anyone who lives in the real world NOT be prepared for that level of dishonesty as she put itWas she living in an environment totally isolated from outside news and information Had she by pure luck never met a crooked soul in her lifeShes also a registered nurse so it cant be a case of total lack of intelligenceI just dont get people

Jim C. said: Its no surprise that religious fundamentalists who believe in invisible men and non-existent arks would fall for such lies

Snoop said: Or maybe people should just stop being so greedy and get the point that the only way youre going to get rich is to win the lottery or you know actually WORK HARD

sharga said: You cant fix stupid



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