I realize that I have written on this subject in a recent column but yesterday the topic surfaced again. As anyone who even casually surfs the Internet knows, all of us receive "scam" proposals for instant riches from some mysterious foreign source. And as everyone should know, these e-mails are as phony as they come.
Here's how it works. You receive an anonymous e-mail from some foreign land that indicates the person sending the correspondence has come into a large sum of money (always in the millions). But in order to receive this windfall of cash, the person needs a willing helper in the United States who will provide a bank account number in which to deposit these newfound riches. Of course, if you were to send your bank account number, chances are you would lose that account. And almost always, you are required to send just a small amount of money to this mysterious person in return for the promise of a percentage of the riches they are to receive.
Now as I have written in the past, these schemes are known as the "Nigerian scam" and they require you to send an advance fee to the sender to participate in this huge wad of cash. You will never see the cash and you will lose your money. No ifs, ands or buts.
So yesterday, I was reading about the minister's wife in Tennessee who shot her preacher husband and fled with their daughters. She was caught, of course, and was released Tuesday on bond. Now we learn that the couple argued over finances prior to the murder and the cause of that financial argument was because the husband had lost much of the family's nest egg in a "Nigerian scam." He apparently received one of the millions of e-mails that promised the instant riches and sent all of the family money to cover the processing expenses to send the money into his account. The money naturally never materialized and when he confronted his wife with the stupid mistake, well I assume we know what happened next.
I have always assumed that only an absolute idiot would fall for such an obvious scam. But greed is a powerful force and apparently even the clergy can fall victim. What person in their right mind would think they could gain instant riches from an anonymous e-mail from an unknown source? For the life of me, I cannot answer that question.
Let this be a warning. If you receive an e-mail that says you could share in a pot of gold, remove it instantly. It is a scam that will steal your money, your pride and, in some tragic instances, your life.
There is no happy ending to this story. Just a lesson.