A 67-year-old man faces a multitude of criminal charges for his alleged role in a common email scam that promises recipients a fortune.
Police say Michael Neu, 67, of Slidell, Louisiana, bilked people out of thousands of dollars in the “Nigerian Prince” scam. He was arrested after an 18-month investigation, and faces 269 counts of wire fraud and a single count of money laundering.
Experts say the scam has been around since the 1970s. The latest version is perpetrated by scammers who send emails to thousands of people, claiming the recipients are entitled to a $1 million inheritance from a Nigerian prince. All the recipients must do to access the cash is provide the sender with their bank account information, so funds can be deposited. Simple enough? Hardly. Instead of depositing the funds, the scammers use the financial information to clean out the accounts.
Police say Neu took a cut and wired the rest of his take to co-conspirators in Nigeria.
According to consumer advocates, the Nigerian Prince scam is like a lot of others run by online criminals who look for vulnerable victims who only realize they’ve been duped until after they’ve lost thousands of dollars in many cases. And because many of the criminals operate in other countries using hidden parts of the internet, they’re rarely caught. Even when an operation is shut down by authorities, it is common for the same criminals to start another up very quickly.
“The more we inform consumers on scam tactics, what to look for and how to avoid them, the better chance we have to stop fraudsters in their tracks,” said Dennis Horton, a Better Business Bureau director.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) handles thousands of consumer complaints every year. Horton said that many of the calls the organization receives are from people who have fallen prey to cyber scams, a lot of which are part of the BBB’s Top 10 Scams of 2017. The list includes the Sweepstakes and Lottery scam, Can You Hear Me Now scam, and a host of text-messaging scams aimed at personal banking information.
Law enforcement officials say because more people are living their lives through online transactions, it is vital to protect personal financial information at all times. Police say never give out banking or personal data to anyone online unless they are from a trusted organization. Wiring money to strangers is also never recommended.